Soccer crooks: Bernard Tapie, folk hero or snakeoil charmer?

marina zenovich bernard tapie.jpg
Marina Zenovich finally meets Tapie
Soccer as with every professional sport has its share of crooks and swindlers. The recent indictment of Luciano ‘Lucky’ Moggi, the former chairman of Italian club Juventus in the recent Serie scandal for match fixing, bribing referees, and financial improprieties for which Juventus was relegated to the Serie B and clubs like AC Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentino focused on the unsavory aspects of E Jogo Bonito. However, even before Moggi was the French businessman Bernard Tapie, a folk hero to many in socialist circles and an ordinary crook to the French elite, indicted for match fixing for his club Olympique Marseille, which was relegated to the second division of the French League in 1993 and stripped of its French league title, just like in Juventus case.
Moggi and Tapie could not be more dissimilar. Whereas, Moggi is the dour faced and low key person, rarely seen, whose mode of operating was to pick up the phone and shake things up, Tapie is the exact opposite. He is a former minister of city affairs in the French government, a TV host, singer, actor, rapper, and award winning yachtsman. As a businessman he owns, La Vie Claire, sponsors of one of the strongest Tour De France cycling team including champions like Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond.
Bernard Tapie was accused of match fixing between Olympique Marseille and second division club Valenciennes, in order to save his top players for the important first division matches and save their energy. OM went on to win the French title in 1993 and also the European Championships. Tapie was indicted for match fixing, financial irregularities, witness tampering and OM was relegated to the second division. He was sentenced to 2 years in jail in 1997 and 3 years of civil right deprivation. He served 6 months of that sentence.
Bernard Tapie acted in Claude Lelouch’s ‘Man, Woman: A users manual.” and collaborated with French rapper, Doc Gyneco, in his album Liaisones Dangereuses, in a song called, ” C’est beau La Vie.” Tapie has been described as a man of ineffable charm, a folk hero, a counterfoil to right wing blowhards like Jean Marie Le Pen, a man with many talents, and one of the most public faces in the Mitterand government and in French TV media.
He is also the object of fascination in a documentary film, “Who is Bernard Tapie?” directed by an infatuated American film-maker, Marina Zenovich, who followed him around for three years hoping to meet him. In the end she got to meet his son, Laurent Tapie.

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