Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cantona - a definition of 'le cool'

For me, when I was growing up, I thought the ultimate in cool was Marlon Brando. He’s been my favourite actor for most of my life after I saw him in one particular film and realised he had so much magnetism that I wasn’t watching the movie I was just watching him.Whatever “it” is, he had it.

When I checked one particular website (called Rate It All) where people were asked to nominate their coolest person in the world, sadly Mr Brando did not even make the top ten. The winner according to this particular poll was Jesus followed by Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Lee. Several other people in the top 100 certainly deserved their place – David Bowie, JFK, Mohammed Ali, Bob Marley and Barack Obama – although the survey somewhat lost its credibility by making Bugs Bunny the seventh coolest ‘person’ on earth with Chewbacca also quite high up!

Incidentally, the highest woman (Audrey Hepburn) was....62nd. Is coolness a purely male trait???

Anyway, the reality is I will never get to meet many of those ultra-cool people’ (for fairly obvious reasons!) but on Saturday I truly did look into the eyes of what I see as cool.

And it was right here in the heart of Bath.

For last Saturday the huge sporting icon that is Eric Cantona descended on the city –and I use the word descended because that’s just how lofty and grand it felt.

He was here to promote his new movie, Looking For Eric, which has been directed by Bath’s own Ken Loach. As is well known, Ken is a massive fan of our fantastic local football team, Bath City, and so when he wanted Eric to promote the new film, he took him to all the obvious places (Manchester, London and the Jonathan Ross show) – and to Bath.

The King (for that is Cantona’s very apt nickname) spent three unforgettable hours at Twerton Park with Bath City players, officials and fans before going to the Little Theatre for a screening of the movie and a subsequent question and answer session.

I didn’t make the movie (although I will be catching it this weekend), but I was there for every minute of the Bath City experience and I truly felt I was touched by stardust.

Eric, traditionally a private and shy man, was open, friendly and patient with everyone and he showed none of the “Billy Big Boots” attitude that makes many of us very angry about the modern footballer. His humility, his grace and his kindness shone out in every autograph he signed, every award he handed out to a Bath City Youth player and every raffle ticket he plucked out of the chest to raise funds for Ken Loach’s favourite football club. Oh and as an aside if Ronaldo is worth £80m - which of course he isn't - how much would the superior Cantona have been worth at his peak???

Reading this you may feel I sound as if I was a little bit star struck – and you would be right. The wonderful Mr Loach introduced me to Eric at one point and I stood there like a lemon, and just shook his hand and mumbled a few nonsense words. Eric in return was generous and respectful and made me feel ten foot tall. And that is because he has that mystery something – ‘cool’ perhaps?

A few months ago I had the honour and pleasure to meet our current Prime Minister and although he is an incredibly powerful man, he didn’t have the same impact on me because the charisma that people like Mr Cantona have are incredibly rare.

If they could bottle this charisma it would sell in the millions – but even then, it wouldn’t work for some people because you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

And Eric has it. Beaucoup.

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