The red devil

From footballing god and philosopher, catwalk model and professional rogue, Eric Cantona is a formidable all-rounder. As the spotlight falls on Cantona the movie star, his biographer Ian Ridley profiles a man determined to make the world eat his goal.

ometimes you feel like asking Eric Cantona the meaning of life, or at least some of its burning questions. A football star raised to media icon and now movie star. The bloke isjust so cool, so together.

Actually, you begin to wonder if that’s still the case. These doubts have nothing to do with that now notorious night at Selhurst Park, the date etched on the mind - 25 January I995 —- when, if anything. his street cred was heightened as a result of his drop kick on a taunting Crystal Palace fan. The Cantona aura has more to do with his gradually rising profile off the football pitch and a latterly declining one on it.

A legend, a myth has grown up around the 30-year-old Cantona, fuelled by a refusal to grant interviews during his eight-month ban from the game following the Selhurst Park incident. Born to a Spanish mother and


‘I used to take a stand and rage against injustice all the time. Now I know how things will turn out and that has taken

the tun out of losing my temper.’

Sardinian father, he grew up in a customised cave outside Marseilles. He’s devoted to the poetry of tortured. tragic Arthur Rimbaud, the music of tortured, tragic Jim Morrison, the films of Bruce Lee. All rebellious, all died young.

That period of silence was almost a throwback to the 50s when footballers were never heard, only seen on the pitch. You could not view on television their human fallibility through disappointing voices that jarred with the on-field heroism, nor were their feet ofclay exposed by a voracious press. Only the dancing toes on a Saturday afternoon mattered. Besides, Cantona had no need to explain, to justify. He was true to himself and his deep nature. Less was more.

His popularity increased even more among Manchester United’s following, while envy of his playing talents -— both physically powerful and subtly influential from other teams’ supporters developed into grudging admiration. The Premiership and FA Cup double that was


5 The List 15-28 Nov 1996