Wednesday, October 23, 2019

for Canada, a case of anglophones

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With the exception of one player, all members of the national team have English as main language. The Canucks lost their first game on Thursday (48-7) against Italy.

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Canadian Tyler Ardron on September 26, 2019, in Fukuoka, in the pool match against Italy. Issei Kato / Reuters

In accordance with the forecasts, the Canadians lost heavily (48-7) against Italy in the first match of their World Cup in Japan. Their "World Cup" rather. As the national team lined up against Italy in Fukuoka on Thursday, September 26, speaks English. Not French. It's simple, "We speak 100% english", summarizes Benoît Piffero, substitute hooker entered shortly before the hour of play.

Right hand on the heart, the only francophone of the selection has thus sung the national anthem (the poem O Canada) in its English version. The Montreal native grew up in France, usually plays in Blagnac with a semi-professional status, in the third division, but he has Canadian nationality.

A "demographic" explanation

In the woods stage of the city, a few fields in stands. We have, of course, heard a " Go Red ! ". But also "Let's go, let's go," more representative of the team's distribution.

To this composition of the team, there is first an explanation "Demographic". It is a Frenchman living in Canada who says so, François Ratier, general and technical director of the provincial entity Rugby Québec. The country has 37 million inhabitants, and a minority of French speakers. "The number of persons whose French is the first official language spoken" was estimated at 7.7 million, according to statistics published in 2011 by the government statistics agency.

"Rugby is in Canada what curling is in France. A minor sport. And it is even more so in Quebec. Benoît Piffero, substitute hooker

Small precision: another player this year is from Montreal. But back Matt Heaton, also replacing Thursday against Italy, is also part of English speakers in Quebec. Just over 20% of Quebecers reported having English as their mother tongue, according to the same 2011 federal statistics.

For Benoît Piffero, there is something else to explain the few Quebecers in the group. "Rugby is in Canada what curling is in France. A minor sport. And it is even more so in Quebec. " In 2012-2013, then strictly amateur, the hooker played some time for the Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Rugby Club, one of the main clubs in Quebec. "But we did not even have our own locker room. " In these conditions, "It's hard to get players to become skilled so they can apply to the national team. "

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The player also summons the story. In particular this "Large contingent of English and Irish present in British Columbia" since the XIXe century, and therefore able to export the oval balloon. The western province still hosts Rugby Canada, the national federation, in Vancouver as well as in the smaller town of Langford.

A tropism for the "US football"

François Ratier does the math: Rugby Canada has about 25,000 licensees in the majority English-speaking part of the country, and only 3,000 in the French-speaking community. To increase the numbers, the technician has a complicated task: "Boys with a good rugby profile will choose ice hockey, a religion here or American football first. " Two lucrative sports. Far from rugby, where only a professional team exists: that of Toronto, which has participated for a year in the new Major League Rugby, against opponents established in the United States.

The tropism for "US football" is observed even among Canadian rugby players, notes the "Frenchy" team, Benoît Piffero: "There, my teammates are on their mobile phones to watch the resumption of American football. I do not understand anything! " At 32, the rugby player is already going on his second World Cup. Before him, how many francophones? He spontaneously quotes winger Fred Asselin (1999-2002). To which is added the second line Al Charron (1990-2003), half French.

Among the Canucks of the 2019 World Cup, few are able to exchange a few words in French. Of course, there are Anglophones living in France all year round: Taylor Paris and Matt Tierney, in Castres, and Conor Trainor, in Nevers. There are also those who have followed "French immersion" in school, programs that are supposed to encourage bilingualism. "In Canada, many things are written in French and English, says Piffero. Packets of cereals, for example. " Same thing to follow the World Cup on television, broadcast on two private channels, The Sports Network and the Sports Network (RDS).

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