Football: McDos and don'ts of life on the Champs-Elysees

ANDY MARTIN At Large In France
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The Independent Online
THANKS TO John Travolta in Pulp Fiction everyone in Paris now knows that a "Quarter Pounder with cheese" is called a "Royale with cheese" and here people say "Le Big Mac". What is less well known is that McDonald's, having coughed up millions for the privilege, is now the "Official Restaurant" of the World Cup. This marks some kind of breakthrough, even if only because this is the first time anyone has even thought of "McDo" (as they call it here) as a "restaurant".

The Academie francaise spent years trying to devise a decent French alternative to the word "hot dog" until a 10 year old finally came up with "Sauci- pain". No one ever used the word, but it was a brave shot at holding back the tide. And now McDonald's is all over the Champs-Elysees. No one had actually tried to translate "Mac" into French, but some Parisians find ironic consolation in the thought that "Un Mac" also means "pimp". Meanwhile, more up-market traditional Paris restaurants like Chez Maxime are offering special deals like four- for-the-price-of-three. But only if all four of you are women.

IF THEY didn't already exist, no one in their right mind would dare invent one. But a Scottish-Brazilian fusion band do exist and I have heard them play (to massive crowds) outside the Parc des Princes, and I have survived. I was even reckless enough to buy one of their tapes of musical transvestism. Imagine Pele in a kilt or Mel Gibson (in his Braveheart incarnation) doing the samba, and now translate that into bagpipes and drums, and you've got it. Whatever you think about it, it definitely beats "You'll never walk alone".

"Mac Umba" is a Scottish-isation of Macumba which is a Brazilian religion that, rather like voodoo in Haiti, is a grand intrinsic of pagan polytheism, Christianity and trance-inducing rhythms, drawing on European and African influences and born out of colonisation slavery.

"Believers in Macumba would worship the Virgin Mary, but at the same time they are really worshipping their sea goddess," Johnny Beaver, of Mac Umba, told me. "We've dropped the religion and taken over the music and added bagpipes. This is our fusion."

There is a weird subterranean connection between Brazil and Scotland. It seems Brazilians can't get enough of "Scotland The Brave", and their "Xote" dance is - according to Beaver anyway - a derivative of Scottish reels. I nearly forgot to add that Ronaldo's family originally came from Glasgow.

IN THE devastating commercial wars that accompany the World Cup, it looks as if Nike is once again threatening victory over all-comers. Adidas have, of course, positioned themselves as the authorised World Cup suppliers, but Nike have claimed the glamour and potency of the unauthorised niche. Shrewdly capitalising on the shortfall between supply and demand for match tickets, they established a so-called "Republic of Sport" on the wide open concrete steps of La Defense with a giant screen and attendant hoop- la.

This is the alternative World Cup venue, but what has raised eyebrows and enlisted painstaking Parisian admiration for brazen political incorrectness is their ad campaign.

The posters lyrically draw on the virile, muscular, marshall style that was taken up by both fascism and communism alike. As if Paris were in the grip of some new totalitarian mentality (which it is), the posters are emblazoned with such exhortations as: "Young People Of The World, Football Is Calling You, Join Us."

A friend in marketing has been carrying out tests to gauge the impact of the rival campaigns. One notable failure has been the Mastercard posters, carrying down-beat black and white images of traumatised players on their knees, and the words "The World Cup is a celebration and sometimes a trial."

Fifty guinea pigs had the image projected in front of them and (a) they were all depressed by it (b) none of them could remember what company it was supposed to be promoting. Whereas everyone knows and loves (while publicly loathing) the Nike pictures.

"This is worrying", said my psychologist friend, recalling experiments in which solid citizens roll along while inflicting extreme pain on helpless victims on the say-so of some authoritarian figure.

DOES FOOTBALL bridge the gender divide in Paris? Not according to one French artist, Joel Garrigou, who has a video installation in the World Cup exhibition at the Musee de L'Erotisme (Museum of Erotic Art) on the Boulevard Clichy among the strip joints and peep shows. In this first in the series of exclusive highlights, I can reveal his video shows a bed, a woman, and a large photo of a hunk and goes on showing them for quite a long time.

"I don't get it," I said to my companion. "What's the connection with football?"

"That's easy," she said. "This is what women will be doing for the duration of the World Cup."

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