Eric Cantona announces shock bid for French presidency

London: Eric Cantona, former Manchester United striker, has said he wants to run for the post of France’s president in the 2012 elections, and is trying to gather the necessary signatures for doing so.

The footballer, who would need the backing of 500 elected officials by the end of February, has sent a letter to French mayors describing himself as an ‘engaged citizen’ and asking for their support.

“This engagement obliges me to speak, more earnestly than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country faces difficult choices which will be decisive for its future,” the Telegraph quoted the letter, printed in the Liberation newspaper, as saying.

In his letter he denounced the limited opportunities for young people in France and social injustices which were ‘too numerous, too violent, too systematic’, the Liberation said.

Election candidates will compete in a first round in late April, with the two biggest vote-winners going through to a decisive second round in early May.

Even if Cantona were able to get 500 signatures, a difficult task without the backing of a party, he would have virtually no chance of reaching the second round as an individual outsider.

It is not the first time the footballer, who earned large sums from sponsorship by brands like L’Oreal and Nike, has tried to draw public attention to social inequality.

In December 2010, he called on French savers to stage a nationwide bank run by withdrawing their money from financial institutions because of their role in triggering the global financial crisis. Panned by the media as a flop, almost no one in France heeded the call.