Since the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup won by France, a toxic rivalry exacerbated by social networks has arisen between the French considered contemptuous and a Belgium which would be a bad loser, or rather having the “seum”, according to the expression. . Three years later, the two neighbors find themselves in another semi-final, that of the League of Nations this time, for a revenge at the top.
Rivalry is the salt of football. For a long time, the one between France and Belgium was good-natured and any meeting between the two nations was described without irony as a nice “feast of the neighbors”. But this friendship was shattered on July 10, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, when a goal and a sway from Samuel Umtiti against the Red Devils catapulted the Blues to the World Cup final. A defeat on the smallest of scores that the Belgians, who had yet delivered a good performance on the ground, had difficulty digesting.
“I would rather lose with this Belgium than win with this France,” said Belgian captain Eden Hazard, after the lost semi-final.
“It was a frustrating match, France played nothing, played to defend with eleven players 40 meters from their goal,” said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. “The frustration is there, because we lose against a team which is not better than us, we lost against a team which plays for nothing, which defends.”
On social networks after these two statements made without hindsight after the match, the Red Devils and their supporters are quickly portrayed as bad losers with “seum” (rage, in slang) by mocking French supporters and a bit arrogant.
On the French web is then born a recurring gag – or meme – and the Belgian flag becomes a synonym of “seum”. Since then, antagonism has only grown between the supporters as the two rivals meet on Thursday, October 7 in the semifinals of the League of Nations (8:45 p.m.).
“To mock five minutes is fine, to add more for three years, it is useless”, explains Fabien Bonnel, one of the animators of the group of supporters Les Irrésistibles Français (IF), about this “low level running-gag” which proliferates on the Internet. He puts himself in the place of the Belgian supporters: “If I get this out every morning, put ‘seum’ in all the sauces, at one point I’m going to blame you and not necessarily be nice”.
“There has always been a little animosity, but historically rather teasing,” says Swann Borsellino, journalist for the French magazine So Foot but also for the Belgian TV channel RTBF. But “since 2018, it really annoys me because it has become toxic, unlivable and stupid,” he said, appalled at the proportions taken by this antagonism.
The rivalry reaches new proportions at Euro-2021. While supporters of the two nations salivate at the idea of crossing each other in the semifinals, France is eliminated by Switzerland in the round of 16. An exit from the track celebrated in Belgium by crowds of supporters. In Brussels, some burn a French flag, according to the Belgian site 7 of 7. In Charleroi, the elimination of the Blues was also celebrated with honking and smoke.
Revenge against their arrogant neighbor was within reach for the Belgians, but karma is never far away: Belgium lost in the quarterfinals against Italy, the future European champion. So much for dreams of the first coronation.
“Who only the wind reaps chauvinism”
As the new semi-final between the neighbors approaches in Turin, several players in the football world are trying to defuse the growing tension between the two nations.
The rivalry has always been “healthy and sporty” on the ground, but there are outside “excesses on both sides, because we are in the interpretations of hot words (…) which have certainly taken too much. ‘importance “, tried to temper the French coach Didier Deschamps in a press conference.
Swann Borsellino, for his part, would pay dearly to find the memory of France-Belgium before-2018. “I would dream that there was only sporting rivalry, between a Belgium n ° 1 in the world [au classement Fifa, NDLR] and a world champion France. It is superb, this rivalry, it is this one that counts “, says the journalist who lives between Paris and Brussels.
The day after the flag incident, his colleague Bertrand Henne wrote an editorial titled “Who only the wind reaps chauvinism”, while Swann Borsellino called for a return of benevolence.
My vocation is not to be French ambassador in Brussels and above all I am aware of the many abuses that have come from my side of Quiévrain, but there is a time when it has to become good child again.
– Swann Borsellino (@SwannBorsellino) June 28, 2021
At the World Cup in Russia in 2018, the Belgians had “one of the best teams in their history, they had enormous belief in their chances,” he continues. The opportunity to win a World Cup rarely presents itself at home, “a lot of people who make fun of Belgians do not understand this situation”.
“Belgium has a great generation and could hope for this moment of ultimate joy that we had, I suspect that it was painful and that it could still be for them”, continues Fabien Bonnel, the group leader. of Les Irrésistibles Français (IF) supporters.
He prefers to retain the bond forged with his Belgian counterparts around a barbecue in 2013, a football game in 2018 in Russia or in the stands of the Stade de France, with supporters who came “with their Belgian jerseys” to attend to a Blues match.
“We the ‘IFs’ have a friendship with the Belgian ultras”, continues Kin-Wai Yuen, an active member, taking as an example the tarpaulin installed last summer during Switzerland-France in tribute to Erik Reynaerts, figure of the stands. died at Euro-2016. “It’s a friendship with these Belgian supporters, it does not represent the general public, social networks, the ‘haters’ [les haineux, NDLR].”
On the side of the French Irresistibles, we hope that the tensions perceptible online and in certain street demonstrations will not find an extension around Juventus Stadium while several matches, especially in Ligue 1, have been marked by the overflows of supporters in recent years. weeks.