Iceland Handball's Final Opponent
To be honest, I wanted to like the French men's handball team. For one thing, they play an extremely appealing and skillful brand of handball. But more to the point, they have this tradition of operating under grandiose team nicknames at major competitions. This dates primarily from the 1992-generation team, which played under the name of les Barjots, "the Crazies," since that team was marked by crazy personalities and crazier haircuts.
Since then, according to Wikipedia and various French fans I talked with yesterday, the French handball team has entered competitions known as les Costauds (the Strongest) and les Euros.
This year's team has been dubbed "les Experts," which is also the name of CSI in France, again, according to Wikipedia. Even better, there is a series of YouTube videos that assign fabulous names to various French stars; Guillaume & Bertrand Gille are Le Duo, Joel Abati is Le Reverend, Oliver Girault is "Le Gagneur," Daneil Narcisse is "Le Magicien," Luc Abalo is "L'Artiste," and so on. So after France edged defending champs Croatia in Friday's first semifinal, I rushed down to ask why they came up with "les Experts."
"Not ourselves, the media, the press," injured star Jerome Fernandez said. "For each generation they find a surname. And before, the generation of , was Barjots, Crazies. After they were "the Strongest," and now it's Experts because we won all. We are world champion, we are European champion, and we only miss zis one. Zis ticket."
But still, why les Experts?
"You know, it's a marketing question, I can't answer it," Bertrand Gille said, adding that he didn't really care what their nickname was. Sigh.
I tried asking some other players, most of whom claimed not to be able to speak English. One said he didn't feel like speaking English. Star player Nikola Karabatic said this team actually doesn't have any nickname, despite the presence of a Web site devoted to les Experts. I mean, Bill Belichick would have been frustrated by these interviews.
And speaking of that site....I was guided to it by this blog post, which notes that Karabatic is set to appear in some sort of erotic French calendar. At look at the les Experts site then showed that the entire team has posed for a series of odd, skin-glistening, topless shots. I have no idea if these four are the best of the lot, but here they are, anyhow.
Hoping that Karabatic might take some pride in the Crazies, in that legacy of nicknamed madness, I asked about the 1992-era team.
"I mean, people try always to compare us with zis team, but we are one team also with zis
team, we are ze French team," he said. "And we try to give our best every time but it's every time a big pressure on us to play Olympics. Everybody says France never won or made medal in Olympics since 1992, zey want us every time to compare. But we are ze same team, we are following what zey did."
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