Why I'll be wearing a Foo Fighters shirt

I HATE France.No, let me make myself clear. I love France the country. Enough to have seriously considered, on a few occasions, moving there to live.

I HATE France.

No, let me make myself clear. I love France the country. Enough to have seriously considered, on a few occasions, moving there to live. I may yet do it.

I love much about French culture, and there are many French people I like very much indeed.

What I hate is France the football team.

This is obviously not a sane, reasoned attitude. Hatred seldom is.

Nevertheless, there has been just one moment in a so far thoroughly enjoyable World Cup when I really felt sickened and cross.

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It came seven minutes from the end of Spain's involvement. That was when Thierry Henry went clattering into the back of Carles Puyol and went down clutching his face as if it was he who had been fouled.

The fact that the guilty party was Henry - the one current French player I had until then liked and respected - only made it worse.

The ref bought it. The innocent Puyol was scandalously booked and from the free-kick France scored a match-settling goal.

It was by no means the first injustice of the tournament, but it was the first that really got my goat. Not because I'm a fan of Spain, though I'd enjoyed their football in earlier games. But because I hate France.

And that's something I really need to explain, to myself as much as to you.

Until 1998, I didn't hate France. There was really no point - they weren't significant enough to bother about, though I'd already spent some years intensely disliking Eric Cantona.

Hugely over-rated, especially by himself, Eric was the prototype of what France would become. Bizarrely, the fact that they chose to omit both him and the equally flamboyant David Ginola was what really underscored the French arrogance.

And then they had the temerity to win the World Cup with surely the poorest and luckiest team ever to do so.

Again like Cantona - and again at Euro 2000 - they were simply more successful than they seemed to deserve.

That, at least, is the rationale, or some of it. But I suspect that deep, deep down there's another reason for my loathing of Les Bleus.

It's the same reason many English people (not me, obviously) loathe the French as a people - and why many of the French despise the English.

It is also the reason why Ipswich fans hate Norwich, and vice-versa.

No Englishman, Frenchman, Tractor Boy or Canary will want to admit it, but to the rest of the world it's blooming obvious.

It's simply that we're so horribly, offensively alike.


IT may seem like a doomed bid to hang on to my long-departed youth, but I shall be wearing my Foo Fighters T-shirt to tonight's Red Hot Chili Peppers gig.

Back in 2003, it seemed a cracking opportunity when two of my favourite bands were both on the bill at the V Festival in Chelmsford.

Then the organisers, in their wisdom, chose to put the Chilis on one day and the Foos on the other. This was surely a cynical ploy to make fans attend both days (though since the festival is always a sell-out, I don't know why they'd bother).

Unfortunately, I was unable - for work reasons - to see the Foos then.

I could not then have imagined that three years later I'd be able to see both bands in the same month - and in Ipswich. How good is that?

Tonight's gig has been on the calendar for so long now that I no longer feel as excited at the prospect as I did when it was announced. No doubt the first pumping notes from Flea's bass guitar will change that.

The Chilis will have to go some, though, to eclipse the sheer brilliance of the Foo Fighters' recent drop-in at the Regent.

That was one of the most unlikely, and frankly enjoyable concerts I can remember. No stadium performance can hope to match that intimacy.

And though the Chilis were good at Chelmsford - very good - they were if anything a little too slick, too polished, too professional.

Much the same can be said, I'm afraid, of their album Stadium Arcadium.

It's a perfectly produced showcase for just about the most proficient musicians in the business.

It's hard to believe that the effortless, smooth singing of Antony Kiedis comes from the same larynx as their earliest, unpolished work.

But it's also hard to credit that the writer of such raw, powerful songs as Scar Tissue and Under The Bridge, or such biting satire as Californication, has come down to the meaningless blandeur of the new album.

For much of their career, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been pretty tortured souls.

Kiedis's excellent autobiography, Scar Tissue, lays bare some hard times - most of them self-inflicted - with unflinching honesty.

As he freely admits, he wasn't always a very nice fellow.

He lost his best friend, guitarist Hillel Slovak, to drugs. Hillel's replacement in both roles, John Frusciante, almost went the same way.

Today, the Chilis are a cleaned-up, straightened-out band. I only wish I was half as fit as the hyper-active Kiedis and Flea.

I just hope they demonstrate at Portman Road tonight that healthier and happier doesn't have to mean duller.

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