John Lichfield: Boos that shouldn't come as a surprise

Paris Notebook: Would Zidane be considered French if he wasn't picked for the French side?
Click to follow

The man who sells me my newspapers every day reads the news as well as sells it (this is rarer than you might think). He has been infuriated by the overblown and pompous reaction of the French political classes – right- and left-wing – to the whistling of "La Marseillaise" by Tunisian fans at a France-Tunisia friendly football match last Tuesday.

There have been calls from the government for friendly fixtures to be abandoned if this happens in future. My newspaper vendor Ali, French-born but of Algerian origin, said: "It was rude and excessive to whistle during the 'Marseillaise'. But this was a football match and they were football fans. Exactly the same kids might have gone to a France-England match and they would have waved tricolours and supported the France team."

The supporters who whistled the French national anthem and every move by a French player were not Tunisian, but French. They were young men in their teens and 20s. Almost of them can be assumed to have been born, and educated, in France. Their sense of scrambled identity is not especially surprising. French-Algerians and French-Moroccans whistled the French anthem at previous friendly matches. The young Franco-Tunisians felt obliged – out of a sense of Tunisian identity which is doubtless shaken every time they visit their grandparents in Tunisia – to do the same.

If you talk to young people in the multi-racial suburbs of Paris, of African origin as well as North African, they are unmistakably French. But they do not consider themselves to be French and they know that many French people do not think they are French.

The former France international Lilian Thuram, a great thinker as well as a great full-back, said at the weekend: "How many French people regard anyone called Zinedine or Karim as French, unless he happens to be picked for the France football team?"

Little pomp at Pompidou

When I lived in Paris in the late 1970s, the place to go was the newly-constructed Centre Pompidou or "Beaubourg". I went along this weekend with my 10-year-old daughter, Grace, and I was astonished how quiet it was. We went up the glass elevator to the national museum of modern art. Here, a great deal of wonderful art – and a lot of rubbish – is framed by stunning views of that marvellous work of the art, the Paris skyline.

We had an eventful time in an almost empty museum. I got a shove in the back from an outraged old lady – almost the only other person around. I had put my arm around her thinking she was my daughter.