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Eric Cantona steals show with Shakespeare at Champions League draw

Eric Cantona is 53.
Eric Cantona is 53. Copyright REUTERS
Copyright REUTERS
By Alastair Jamieson
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French legend Cantona quoted from Shakespeare's King Lear in speech that left soccer stars in the audience visibly baffled.

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Eric Cantona often left other players behind — and did so again on Thursday, quoting Shakespeare in a speech that left soccer stars visibly baffled.

The French legend was receiving the 2019 UEFA President's Award, moments before the Champions League group draw, in front of an audience that included Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 53-year-old was asked, perhaps unwisely, what was going through his mind.

“As flies to wanton boys we are for the gods,” Canton replied. “They kill us for the sport.”

He continued: “Soon, science will not only be able to slow down the ageing of the cells, soon science will fix cells to the state and so we will become eternal. Only accidents, crimes, wars will still kill us, but unfortunately, crimes and wars will multiply.”

A wide-eyed Ronaldo looked as confused as anyone as Cantona suddenly wrapped up: “I love football. Thank you.”

“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods," is one of Shakespeare’s darkest lines, spoken by a despairing Gloucester after he has been blinded in Act IV of King Lear. “They kill us for sport.”

Its bleak assessment of humanity is a lot darker than Cantona's previously best-known speech, given in reaction to being spared jail for kicking an abusive fan.

"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea," he told English sports journalists in 1995.

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