France - Shoplifting pétanque player becomes repeat offender
It’s a game played by thousands in this country and as with many a sport it can inflame the passions of both participants and spectators.
Unfortunately for one particular young man he took his enthusiasm for it a step too far by stealing a couple of treasured "boules" or balls and getting caught in the act, not once, but twice.
Maybe a word or two on pétanque at this point as even though it’s an international sport, it’s not exactly one of the best known around the world.
There are plenty of better well-informed sources out there describing what it is and where it originates, but succinctly (and therefore probably not entirely accurately) put it’s a sort of French bowls.
Just to emphasise the popularity of pétanque here in France, it ranks as the eighth most played sport in terms of active club membership with apparently more than 362,000 registered players.
There’s a federation governing the sport in this country, championships broken down by sex and age, and of course a French cup.
In fact to find out everything and anything you might ever have wanted to know (or not, as the case might be) there’s the bible of the game available annually in the form of Le Guide Boulisme.
Anyway back to the man who was caught stealing those boules.
The 33-year-old was arrested in the southwestern French town of Dax earlier this week as he attempted to lift a couple of them worth €199 ($US 269) from a store.
No mean feat really as they usually weigh anything between 650 and 800 grammes each and so aren’t exactly the easiest things to sneak out of a shop without being noticed.
Apparently it wasn’t the first time he was "caught in the act" according to the regional daily, Sud Ouest.
He was stopped just last month committing a similar theft, albeit for the smaller amount of €163 ($US220).
All of which means, says the paper, that when his case comes to court he’ll be treated as a repeat offender and runs the risk of not just facing a fine but also a sentence.
And his defence? Well he claims to be quite good at the game but not to "have the means to finance his passion."
So quite literally a French sporting crime of passion - of sorts?
He’ll have the chance to explain himself fully when his case comes to court, but for that he’ll have to wait until April.