Soccer Legend Tries, Fails, to Revolt Against Big Banks

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Former soccer star and actor Eric Cantona

AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU

Goodbye King Eric; hello Che Cantona.

On Tuesday French soccer great (and larger-than-life personality) Eric Cantona sought to spark a “revolution” against the global finance system by leading a world-wide run on banks. But as was the case during Canto’s glory days with Manchester United, the wild cheers his iconoclastic antics generated today came mostly from people sitting idly on their backsides admiring his talent for theatrics.

Cantona’s offensive on banks arose from an Oct. 14 video interview that took place as France protested looming penchant reform, and aired anger over the government’s response to the global economic downturn. As part of his advice of how society can hit back those responsible for the situation, Cantona noted “revolution now occurs within banks”, and predicted “if 20 million people withdraw their money, the entire system falls”. The video went viral—producing adaptations in 28 different countries, and attracting over 38,000 fans to a Facebook page backing Cantona’s call to punish (rather than bailout) financial companies who caused the global economic crisis in the first place. For good measure, Cantona told French daily Libération on November 30 he’d lead the withdrawal onslaught, promising, “on December 7, I’ll be at the bank”.

(See where Cantona ranks in TIME’s top 10 last laughs.)

Since then, French politicians and business leaders have stepped up to denounce the initiative, noting that the same little people tempted to follow Cantona’s charge would be the worst hit were he to attain his goal of causing the global banking and financial system to implode (a threat no one took too seriously despite those objections). Shortly before banks were set to open Tuesday, meanwhile, French Solidarity and Social Cohesion Minister, Roselyne Bachelot tackled Cantona where it really hurt: reminding a national radio audience the footballer-turned-actor has made money as a advertising pitchman for the type capitalist companies he’s at times railed against. Bachelot then delivered a kung-fu kick of her own by noting Cantona’s wife–actress Rachida Brakni—has done ads for French bank LCL.

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The upshot of it all? Not much. No news  broke of sudden bank failures sweeping France Tuesday, nor was there word of even occasional customers taking their savings deposits home. There were, however, reports of Cantona withdrawing his money out as threatened, though those were later revealed to be false–with Canto never leaving the confines of the film set he was working on in northern France to strike his threatened blow against baking fat cats. Doubtless Cantona will have an entertaining excuse for his revolutionary restraint—artistic explanations of his actions being yet another Cantona specialty.

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