his Frenchie : as others see it

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WE HAVE been in the habit of forgiving the Cantona-isms, those excesses that mark the French footballer's career. As long as his targets were administrators and referees, there was a certain tolerance. In a world of polished individuals, this ecc entric fascinated us.

Then, when his career was said to be over, he found a land of football across the Channel that suited him. They understood him, this Frenchie, who could mumble only three words of English ... The infatuation of the English crowds survived his worst pranks - his adolescent behaviour, his dying to be loved while doing everything to be hated.

This time what he did was inexcusable. In leaping the barrier boots first, Eric Cantona attacked English football in its most sensitive spot. The British have succeeded in eliminating violence to the point where the hideous metal fences supposed to protect the players have disappeared from their grounds. How can they acknowledge that the hooligans are now on the pitch, threatening the public?

For his offence, Eric Cantona risks being banished from his land of exile.

France, facing its own slide into violence, ought not to accept this latest fit of apoplexy ... How can [Cantona] again wear the badge of the French captain, or be seen to carry on playing in the jersey of the national team?

`Le Monde', French daily.