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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 04:10 GMT 05:10 UK
European press review

With the World Cup kicking off, Friday's European papers consider the power of the beautiful game.

A French paper stares into the hole in the public finances.

And German papers wonder if the chancellor's new podcast can win over the nation.

Metaphor for life

Spain's El Pais describes the football World Cup as "the mass phenomenon par excellence".

"The image of children in any African village sporting shirts with the names of Ronaldinho, Del Piero or Beckham shows that there is no more universal sport," it says.

Do people realise that the French team alone holds the future of Chiraquisme between its feet?

Football has become "a great metaphor for life", it argues, where the "unpredictable" chance of winning or losing "because of an injustice or an accident" reflects the modern world as created by globalisation.

"The kick-off of the football World Cup", Sweden's Sydsvenska Dagbladet exclaims. "What a joyous day!"

The fascination of football, it says, lies in the direct path leading from "the gravel grounds" of youth teams practising around the country, to the Dortmund stadium where Sweden plays its first game on Friday.

"Everything is connected in a system where dreams can be made into reality," the paper says.

However, Spain's El Periodico believes that the great amount of money shifted by the World Cup event conceals "the shadowy areas of an ultra-professionalised sport".

"Everything comes second to the marketing of the stars, the astronomical TV rights and the audiences which fuel them," it says.

France's Liberation takes its own rather wry view of the games.

"Do people realize that the French team alone holds the future of Chiraquisme between its feet?" the paper asks.

"For want of results," the paper adds of Mr Chirac, "the head of state expects a place in history only if France wins a second world champion title".

Warning lights

Meanwhile, France's Le Monde scrutinizes the persisting hole in the country's social security fund, which the government hoped to have begun to plug.

The accompanying facial expression will not work
Suddeutsche Zeitung

Quoting the latest figures which revealed an anticipated 2006 deficit of 10.3bn, the paper points out with a touch of sarcasm that the deficit was expected to be of "just 8.9 bn euros".

"This is a severe disappointment for the government," it observes, adding that the aim of balancing the accounts by the 2007 presidential election is a long way off.

With many branches spending beyond their budget, the paper says, "all the social security warning lights are flashing".

Merkel in your pocket

Most German papers take a rather light-hearted view of the news that Chancellor Angela Merkel has delivered her first podcast.

According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Mrs Merkel's video message - which will now be available every Saturday via mp3 players countrywide - was designed to show the German leader in a "dynamic" light.

There are also plans for jolly video clips entitled 'Angela Merkel sings'
Die Welt

Unfortunately, it adds, Mrs Merkel does not radiate conviction: "The accompanying facial expression will not work," it says. "Somehow everything is all modern, yet stiff and emotionless."

Frankfurter Rundschau observes that "the chancellor has never fitted so handily in a pocket" but says that some technical problems were encountered when the server was overloaded by the "enormous" demand for the first podcast.

"The media interest surprised even the Federal Press Office," the paper adds.

A satirical Die Welt imagines that the chancellor is already available as a free ringtone.

"There are also plans for jolly video clips entitled 'Angela Merkel sings' and the first song will be the national anthem in German and Turkish," it quips.

For Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the advantage of the downloadable clip is that it keeps the chancellor unobtrusive and in her place, "so long as nobody comes up with the idea of distributing her podcast as spam".

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.


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