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The new hooligans of the boulodrome

Actor Yves Montand (in hat) and pals in 1988. Patrick Siccoli/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

You may have thought pétanque was a “non-violent game”, says Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in The Daily Telegraph. Apparently not. During the Gironde championship qualifiers earlier this month, a 58-year-old player – “reportedly well-lubricated with Crème de Menthe” – got so angry with the referee that he attempted to strangle him. “If you give me a red card,” he reportedly shouted, “you won’t leave the boulodrome alive.” This unseemly incident has left France in shock. Of course, pétanque is traditionally accompanied by a “petit verre”. It’s the equivalent of “cricket players having a brandy and soda – or three – between innings”. But still. “Hooligans at sports games? That sounds to us très Anglais.”

We French used to be the masters of “drinking well, but not to excess”. The key was that it was everywhere: little 25cl bottles of wine were served with hospital meals and included in soldiers’ packs; children were given a half-inch of vin rouge in their water glass. This meant booze was never considered a forbidden fruit, which made people less likely to binge drink. But consumption of alcohol has fallen by two-thirds over the past six decades – and that, ironically, has increased its appeal among certain groups. Binge drinking is now common among the young: on Saturday nights, Métro stations in Paris are full of people “sleeping off Jägermeisters, vodkas, tequilas”. And the events at the boulodrome suggest the old aren’t any better. My fellow citizens, it seems, “can no longer handle a drink”.