A war of words in the French and British press broke out early this month during the annual Mondial La Marseillaise, the Pétanque World Cup. Le Mondial is wrapping up its 60th anniversary competition in Marseille, France with an astonishing 11,232 players – pros, amateurs, and weekenders – competing.
An English triples team representing the London Pétanque Club, biggest in England, won their first game but fell in the hard-fought second, 13-11 to a French team. Pétanque is exploding in popularity throughout the UK, especially among younger players. The London Club sponsors an annual International Pétanque Championship that most recently offered prize money of 10,000 pounds and attracted major world players, including the French champion Dylan Rocher.

Interviewed by La Marseillaise, the Marseille local newspaper, the English team noted that for next year it has already raised a purse of 11,200 pounds for the London championship. The team expressed their hope that with television coverage and corporate sponsorship, “one day we may be as big” as Le Mondial. The story in La Marseillaise, while offering grudging respect for the English team’s performance, was headlined “These English Want to Steal the Pétanque World Cup,” and described the English players as “pale face and calf still white.”

No less than The Times of London responded with a critical account of the “furious” French team calling the English “les rosbifs” (the Roast Beefs) after losing the first game. The Times also published a Sports Editorial, “The Times View on Pétanque in Britain: Bowled Over” asserting that “the French game’s success on these shores is sweet revenge for all the sports invented here and stolen by others.”

The editorial suggested, at least partly tongue-in-cheek, that pétanque is simply a “foreign version” of British lawn bowls that is “rapidly finding favour with all those who have lazed away their summers in Provence and Dordogne” and concluded that the game is “coming home.” So goes the latest skirmish of centuries-old suspicion in Franco-British relations.

The Club encourages all Oakmonters who may be interested in playing or learning to play pétanque (pay-tonk) to come to the courts between Berger and the OVA offices at 9:45 a.m. on the Club play days of Wednesday and Saturday. The Club has boules to lend while you’re learning, and you’ll be playing right away. No dues are required – just sign up to be on the Club roster. Club play days are casual friendly games with teams randomly assigned.

The second summer Evening Pétanque dessert social and open, casual play will be on Thursday, August 18 at 6:00 p.m. The final tournament of the season is the Oktoberfest tournament and picnic potluck lunch on Saturday, October 22.


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