By Tony Attwood
Olivier Giroud is known in France for all sorts of things. For example, everyone in the country who follows football will agree it was his goals that were fundamental in getting totally unfancied Montpellier to become French champions for the first time in their history. They were also the launch pad for his move to Arsenal.
But in France they also know Giroud or other reasons, including his ability as a dancer. And since, odd that it may seems for someone who spends part of each day raving about Arsenal on this blog, dance is my absolute passion (in that I go dancing at least three nights a week most weeks), I’ve always felt an affinity with Giroud.
However I’ve not really had much information on Giroud and dance… until just recently when Olivier turned up on TV Channel “France 2” in its regular cultural magazine “Stupéfiant!”, (which as you can probably guess even if not a French speaker means “Amazing!”) that I realised that he too had studied dance.
Presented by Léa Salamé “Stupéfiant!” covers all the arts and Olivier Giroud was recently interviewed on the subject of his most famous goal and the reward he got for it with his recent award. The piece made interesting viewing, not least for the rarity of including a footballer in a programme that reports on the way culture is evolving in France.
And yet the scorpion goal and culture are perhaps not such strange bedfellows – especially if one knows that Giroud studied contemporary dance as part of his university training to get a sports teacher diploma. The university course naturally incorporated contemporary dance as art, and as Giroud said on the programme “the scorpion kick could have been part of a choreography of my dance teacher of the time.”
Giroud is, in every regard, not one of your usual players. Goodness knows how many other footballers even have a clue as to what contemporary dance is, let alone have studied it, but an interest in the arts is perhaps not quite so surprising given that at several points in his career Giroud has chosen the less obvious option when he has a choice.
For example, he turned down the chance to play for Celtic in 2009-10 while he was with second division Tours. In the end he chose to go to unglamorous Montpellier – a decision aided in part by Louis Nicollin, Montpellier’s owner who told Giroud in a phrase that has become rather well known in France, that he would be “bored shitless playing against Kilmarnock”.
But there was another reason why he went to Montpellier, and one that has always drawn me closer to the player. He went there so he could attend the city’s famous university to finish his degree. “Studying helped my football on a mental level,” said Giroud. “Besides, it’s good for you to talk and think about something other than football and meet people from outside the game.” How absolutely true.
In footballing terms Giroud was certainly a late developer. He came through the youth academy at his hometown club Grenoble, then went on loan to third division Istres, where he became recognised as a goal scorer. But Grenoble released Giroud in 2010 when coach Mehmed Bazdarevic decided that he did “not have the level to play at the elite”. Eventually Giroud was taken on by second division Tours and 33 league goals in two seasons won the club promotion to France’s top division, and then the move to Montpellier.
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We’ve heard recently how close Giroud came to moving to Everton when given the chance this summer, having been told the Lacazette was coming to Arsenal. But obviously, after visiting the ground and meeting the chairman etc, Giroud decided to stay at Arsenal even if he was not going to play each game. Given the history of his decision making and his interest in culture, it is easier to understand why.
But back with the dance: if you have no idea what contemporary dance is, or if you are assuming you know but haven’t actually ever seen it, you might care to start with any of the dances shown on http://contemporarydancevideos.com/
And if you would like to watch a really famous contemporary dance all the way through try this: Rosas Danst Rosas. It is not going to show you Giroud doing a scorpion but it’s a fair introduction to a whole art form that for many people (especially in England) passes under the radar. Oh and if you think you’ve seen a bit of this on a pop video yes, Beyoncé did nick a bit of it without paying.
But watching the real thing is a different proposition. It’s around eight minutes long, and is just one example of the sort of art that has been decimated in Britain through years of government that suggest that we don’t want any of this arty-farty nonsense here. But the loss is ours. Thank goodness it still flourishes elsewhere, where the value of the arts is not placed below the endless drive to profit.