Let them all eat football
STEVEN Pienaar recently tweeted that haters are confused admirers - and it seems Francois Hollande is a confused admirer of his nation's footballers.
The new Socialist president has slapped a 75% supertax on anyone who earns more than 1-million euros a year - a band that applies to about 3000 French residents, among them 150 Ligue 1 stars.
It seems Hollande doesn't appreciate how hard it is to prance about for up to three hours a day, sometimes kicking a ball simultaneously - not to mention other responsibilities such as tweeting, getting tattoos, shouting racist abuse and banging underage girls.
Several French people, most of them millionaires and/or footballers, agree that the supertax is a cruel and inhumane idea that will drive all the great artists from Ligue 1. They will flee to Spain or England, the argument goes, like a herd of endangered gazelles in search of safety and good grazing. The top tax rates in most western European countries range between 40% and 50%.
But the recently oiled-up Paris St Germain are undermining that theory by snapping up Europe's most coveted stars this off-season, despite Hollande's rampant Robin Hood tendencies.
It's possible that PSG's owners, the Qatari Investment Authority, have simply doubled the gross packages offered to Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in order to give them take-home deals that still trump the offers from kinder tax climes.
A likelier scenario is that club and agent have sat down and lightly sautéed the books in perfectly legal ways. A German agent, Gregor Reiter, put it well: "One advantage rich people have is that they are rich. So first of all they are able to hire extremely expensive and extremely well-trained tax lawyers. Secondly, they are able to move their assets to another country. That's exactly what is going to happen."
What will also happen is that PSG will snatch their first league title since 1994, probably this season, and establish long-term dominance over all their indebted domestic rivals, along with the famously prudent Olympique Lyon. The competitiveness of the division will be gone.
But will the standard of French football slide as a result? Not necessarily. There is a very loose correlation between the financial strength of a country's league and the technical strength of its players. The contrasting abilities of the Spanish and English national sides show that, while money helps, it's not the key factor in World Cup excellence.
The relative poverty of the Dutch league forces Eredivisie clubs to sell their best players abroad, replenishing the ranks with well-educated youngsters. This boosts the national side, and a similar export economy has deepened the French talent base for decades.
And our own PSL is a perfect illustration of how a bit of dosh doesn't necessarily help. We're often told the PSL is among the top 10 leagues by broadcast income - but if you're ranking playing standards, it would only just crack the top 30.
Most of our clubs are just not spending cleverly enough to elevate our game. A case in point this week was Bloemfontein Celtic's purchase of Joel Mogorosi from Mochudi Centre Chiefs, effectively buying out the Botswanan's transfer to Zimbabwean club FC Platinum.
According to a report in Kickoff magazine, FC Platinum recently paid Centre Chiefs 400000 pula for Mogorosi. But after his fine showing against Bafana in June, Bloem Celtic have coughed up P3-million, and Centre Chiefs have passed on P1-million to FC Platinum as compensation.
But Mogorosi was just as good in May as he was in June - Celtic just weren't watching him. One scouting trip across the border could have saved them at least R2-million.