Cantona protest fails to bring down the banks08 December 2010

He was once a great goalscorer, but yesterday Eric Cantona didn't have enough boot to destroy the banking system.

Protesters had called for a global bank run after “Eric le Rouge” claimed revolution was possible if everyone emptied their account on the same day.

Date chosen after shirt number
Protesters chose 7 December in honour of the former Manchester United star's shirt number. But although he contacted a local branch of his bank about a large withdrawal, elsewhere the cashpoint stampede did not materialise.

The manager of BNP Paribas in Albert, a town on the Somme, said Cantona stopped by last week to say he intended to withdraw “more than €1,500”. But he did not when or how much. Today the branch said that, if he arrived, he would be dealt with like any other customer.

Cantona did not show; he has reinvented himself as an actor, and was believed to be on set at a nearby airport shooting a gangster film with Isabelle Adjani.

French government attacks
However, the French government's attacks on him continued. Roselyne Bachelot, minister for solidarity and social cohesion, pointed out that Cantona's wife, actor Rachida Brakni, starred in an advert for a major bank, LCL, while he advertised products from Renault cars to Bic razors on TV.

“You have to have a bit of responsibility when you're one of the high priests of consumer society,” Bachelot said.

Even Socialist leader Martine Aubry said it had all been an “own goal” by Cantona.

In recent weeks he refused all interviews and expressing surprise at the interest after he told a paper in October: “The three million people in the street, they go to the bank, withdraw their money, and the banks collapse … That's a real threat, there's a real revolution.”

‘Save the Rich’
Cantona did not organise the protest, but said last week that, given the level of support, he felt obliged to “go to the bank” himself. Le Figaro cited an unconfirmed report on the financial news site Wansquare saying he had moved €750,000 from an elite bank into Crédit Agricole. A Franco-Belgian anti-bank group that led online calls for the mass withdrawal said it had no figures on the outcome.

A handful of members of the separate campaign group Sauvons les Riches “Save the Rich”, known for ironic stunts to promote equality, withdrew all their cash from a Paris branch of Société Générale and moved it to a co-operative bank. One member, Maxime Hupel, turned up in a replica Manchester United kit. He said he backed Cantona's stance but “didn't want to destroy the bank system, just make it work better”. Banks across France said they had seen no extra demand at cashpoints.