This interview was made by the journalists Andrť Pipa and Sťrgio Filipe Oliveira and appeared in the sports daily A Bola (16/10/16).
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Eric Cantona, 50, former player with the French national team and star of Manchester United, has the soul of an artist and has the luxury of being able to express himself as such. Lisbon has won him over and he says heís a happy lisboeta. Passionate about football, he wants to see young people in the stadiumsÖ
A Bola: Sťbastien Betbeder, who directed the film Marie and the Misfits (2016), praises your ability as a comedy actor. Whatís your secret for achieving excellence in cinema too?
Eric Cantona: Thereís no secret. I like to have fun with serious things, but without any kind of malice. We can laugh at serious things too, but I donít consider myself to be a comedian. I donít like to talk about this kind of thing very much, though; above all I like to have fun.
Betbeder also says that you always focus on details. Do you consider yourself to be a perfectionist?
I think that perfectionists are all those who take pleasure in their work. Work has to be a source of pleasure, not torture. Thatís why itís important to work with young people, to win their confidence, to transmit the pleasure of work and win their confidence.
But does being an actor require more attention to detail than football for work to be done well?
What you all call work is pleasure for me. Itís pleasure, regardless of the moment Ė whether itís preparing a new film, a theatre play, football training or a journalistic matter, like you do. To do an interview you have to work, prepare, do research. A good journalist does all that work so that on the day of the interview they have the necessary confidence to ask the right questions or say what actually happened. For us actors, footballers or film directors, all the work we do gives us pleasure. When we love something, when weíre passionate about it, we do it with pleasure, without a sense of sacrifice. Iím lucky and privileged to live out my passions. For that reason I feel honoured, I feel satisfied.
What gives you more pleasure: playing football or acting?
Itís the same, I feel the same pleasure. Speaking with a film director or a coach is the same thing for me. Players are like actors, with defined tactics and work, with a vision, the vision of the person whoís in charge, whether it be the director or the coach. Itís fighting for someone else, sharing with someone else. Doing individual work but expressing yourself on behalf of the group, whether itís a team or a group of actors for a scene. If everyoneís good, I think itís easy to do the scene. If thereís someone who thinks they can be better than someone else, thatís when things can be more difficult, but the group has to come first Ė regardless of everything, it will always be like that.
Whatís the difference between doing TV and cinema, and whatís the sensation of knowing that itíll be seen in Portugal?
I love to produce, I love to play, I love to act, I love to do documentaries, to think up and initiate new ideas. These documentaries are seen in dozens of countries and Iím very pleased that people like my documentaries here in Portugal. Itís a great country, a great footballing country, a country with history. Theyíre documentaries that address football, that speak about football, but they allow young people to become interested in the history of football.
Youíre a man of the arts and your art used to be football. Do you think that modern football lacks art?
I think that football is always an art, an art that lives because of artists, passionate people. Football is a reflection of society, cinema is a reflection of society. Politics is also a reflection of society. They donít do politics like they did 50 years ago. A football club isnít run like it was 50 years ago. And cinema isnít made like it was 50 years ago. I donít know if the evolution has been positive or not, but as for the game itself, I think that football is always better and more beautiful when itís played by great players.
But is there anything missing?
Often whatís most heart-breaking is the situation of the spectators because nowadays those that go to the stadiums are only the ones that have the money to go there. Football is a sport of the people, a popular sport, and nowadays people donít have enough money to go to the stadiums. Football like that ends up being a bit sad. One thing that needs to change in the future is for young players to go to the stadium to see the games they want to see, the players they like best. They shouldnít just see games on TV Ė they have to go to the stadiums to see what they like to see. TV shows what they want to show us Ė in the stadium we see what we want to see.
What do you mean?
I remember a Barcelona game I went to see. Rijkaard was the coach and there was a corner against Barcelona. Rijkaard left three forwards on the halfway line, three great forwards; one was Ronaldinho and the others Ö I donít remember. Naturally, the cameras showed what was happening with the corner, but in the stadium we saw that there were three players on the halfway line and that if the keeper caught the ball, he could send it straight to one of those three players. Given this situation, the opposition had to leave three or four players in defence. So Barcelona showed that the best form of defence, in this case, was attack because it forced the opposition not to send so many players up to Barcelonaís area, but we saw this by being in the stadium; on TV it would have been hard to spot.
Thatís a good example of the differences for sure Ö
But thereís also the feeling. In clubs with academies, they have to see young players blooded in big games, in European games. We see the players preparing themselves, and going to the stadium is part of the whole apprenticeship. Theyíre young players from poor neighbourhoods that turn into great players. And if these youngsters canít go to the stadiums, theyíll always be lacking something. Make people return to football. Football deserves it.
And why donít people go to football?
Today a game of football costs 100 or 200 euros; itís a lot of money. If a father goes with a child or two, itís a lot of money. On the other hand, nowadays football is still played by great players like Ronaldo or Messi, who make the whole world dream, who are passionate, and who make a lot of money and can pay to play. Even if they didnít earn any money, theyíd pay to play or be in the big games. Thatís passion too Ė paying to play in big games. Everyone dreams of seeing games like that, of seeing them play and being like them.
Itís easy to see that youíre still passionate about football. Is it more likely that in the near future weíll see you giving instructions to actors as a director, or to players as a coach?
I donít really know what Iím going to do. I donít know what I do well. What I do know is that I want to live and have the means to express myself, however that may be. Above all, I want to have the means to express myself.