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French soccer star Eric Cantona causes international stir with call for run on banks

posted 3 Dec 2010, 05:37 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Dec 2010, 05:41 ]

Soccer star turned actor Eric Cantona sparks an international stir with his revolutionary calls for people to take their money out of banks next week to punish them for their role in the financial crisis.

PARIS, FRANCE (DECEMBER 3, 2010) REUTERS - French soccer star turned actor Eric Cantona has caused an international stir with his call for people to withdraw money from their accounts on December 7 to punish the banks for their role in the financial crisis.

His call, which if followed would spark a major run on banks, has become a hit on the internet, a talking point

across Europe where many people are angry at what they see as reckless behaviour by banks sparking the crisis.

"We have to change the way we do things nowadays. Talking of revolution, I don't mean we are going to pick up guns and go out to kill people. Revolution is very simple to do nowadays. What's the system? The system revolves around banks. The system is built on the banks' power. So it can be destroyed by the banks. Instead of having 3 million people going out to demonstrate with a placard, those 3 million people go to their bank branch, they withdraw their money and the banks crumble?" Eric Cantona said in the interview, given to Presse Ocean, a local paper in western France.

"You go to your bank in your village and you withdraw your money. And if 20 million people do that, the system crumbles, no weapons, no blood, Paggiari style," added Cantona, invoking the calling card of notorious French bank robber Albert Spaggiari, who in 1976 made off with millions of francs after tunnelling his way into a branch of Societe Generale.

Cantona's call has been taken up by Stop Banque, a France-based movement that is advocating a run on banks on Dec 7.

The group's Facebook page has 10,872 fans.

A number of other Facebook groups have since taken up Cantona's cause.

With the 2008 banking collapse in fresh memory, many Icelanders might take up football player Eric Cantona's call to punish banks by withdrawing their money from their banks next week.

In Iceland, there is still a lot of anger against the banks themselves and against the politicians who many believe were inactive in the lead up to the the banking collapse and the resulting financial meltdown

The North Atlantic island nation's main banks collapsed within the space of a week in 2008, burdened by huge debts racked up over a decade of aggressive overseas expansion.

The financial sector has since been restructured and new, smaller banks set up under the auspices of the Icelandic government. But they still remain burdened by bad debts owed by households and businesses hurting from a deep recession.

College teacher Rakel Sigurgeirsdottir, who has been an activist since the autumn of 2008, is one of the organisers of the bank run event in Iceland. She says she will follow the call and take all her savings out of her bank next week:

"If the participation is great, it can have the effect that the larger banks simply collapse, but hopefully it has the effect that they re-evaluate their way of doing business and start thinking about doing what they should have done all along, to serve the public, their customers but not solely to exist for themselves and their owners," Sigurgeirsdottir said.

France's economy minister told Eric Cantona on Wednesday (December 1) to stick to football not finance after the former Manchester United goalscorer's call:

"I say each one in its role. There are those who play football magnificently, and I would not dare to try. I think it's best for everyone to stick to their own speciality," Lagarde said during a news conference.

Parisians on the street had mixed reactions about it:

"If I take the money out of my bank I'll end up sleeping on the streets. We don't have the same means," said one man.

"A good idea? I wouldn't say it's a good idea but it is a revolutionary idea, yes," said Isabelle.

"I think it is a bit dangerous and demagogic, it's an idea but I don't think that the French will massively follow his call, and in fact I find this quite ridiculous," said another man on his way to work.