UPDATE: IT TURNS OUT THE FRENCHMAN ISN'T SERIOUS. HE WAS USING HIS CELEBRITY TO CALL ATTENTION TO THE WORK OF THE ABBE PIERRE FOUNDATION, A FRENCH HOUSING CHARITY.
"He isn't looking for signatures to be a candidate for the presidency, but to pass on the message of the Abbé Pierre foundation in support of better housing policy, and to make housing, which is a priority for French people, a priority for the presidential candidates," Libération's deputy editor, Paul Quinio, told the I-Tele news channel.
But the original item is still worth reading, because Eric Cantona is one interesting mec (dude).
Ooh-ahh Cantona - that's what the crowds at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, used to chant when the Frenchman was leading their team to victory - and occasionally kung-fu fighting opposing fans (video here).
Since retiring as a player Cantona has had a remarkably interesting career: as an actor, a poet, a product spokesman and social activist. Now, according to a report in Liberation, he is garnering the necessary 500 signatures of mayors around France that will allow his name to be on the ballot for this April's presidential election.
Political observers say it is a quixotic quest. But then tilting at windmills is a Cantona specialty. Last autumn Cantona led a campaign to get the French people to create a run on their banks by withdrawing all their deposits. His intention was to punish the bankers for causing the economic crisis. Needless to say the campaign was a complete failure.
Cantona is a unique figure in French celebrity life. Liberation describes him as an "all-terrain agitator, destroyer of conformism and unreconstructed provocateur."
French law obliges Cantona to obtain the signatures of 500 local mayors around the country to get his name on the ballot. His letter to the elected officials describes himself "as an engaged citizen."
Reuters reports that the letter continues, ""This engagement obliges me to speak, more earnestly than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country faces difficult choices which will be decisive for its future."
The note gives a sense of his left-wing sensibility by denouncing youth unemployment and social injustices, "too numerous, too violent and too systematic."
The odds of Cantona's becoming president are nil. The odds that he will enliven the campaign for as long as he is in it are extremely high.