Debate rages over the role “Africans” played on the French team in the World Cup and on African sportsmen in general and their effect on integration while many in Africa are calling the French win, an African victory.
Bravo Croatia! Your country of just over four million people took on powerhouse France, pop. 65 million, as well as the best Francophone Africa, nearly half the continent, has to offer. This sort of statement sparks anger from the “ethnic French” among anti-racists. Yet, it is the general feeling I find among Africans too.
Africans took to Twitter and Facebook in the run up to the final, claiming, like journalist Falone Tchounya, with Afrique Media Television, who doesn’t hesitate to write the French victory is thanks to “the Africans” on the team.
It is interesting to see how many Africans recognize the French team as in fact an African team and support it as such. Twelve of the players hold a second passport from an African country. When they are not selected for the French team, if their country makes it to the World Cup, they will play for the team of their second passport. They will also play for those teams during the Africa Cup of Nations.
The former coach of the Croatian team, Igor Stimac, was severely scolded when he asked who exactly Croatia was playing against in the finals? His Facebook page went viral and drew ire from those who say the “Blackness” or “Africaness” of the French team is a sign of the success of multiculturalism and a symbol of successful integration.
Let us put aside those thousands in France with migrant background who, following the game, rioted, burned cars and shops, looted and fought police, because they thought it was a vengeance on the country, although born in, they deeply despise. The question is legitimate: who did Croatia play?
It is well-known that for the past fifty years, if you excelled in sport, you were fast tracked to a European nationality and passport. Sports open the door to a special kind of immigration. In France, almost all those of North African or Francophone African descent hold a second pass port, anyway.
Africans or those of African descent don’t hesitate to promote the Africans on the French side, feeling a sort of revenge over the European countries which welcomed them or their parents because of what they perceive as domestic hostility.
Karen Attiah, of Ghana and Nigeria descent, wrote in the Washington Post prior to the game : “There is a certain glee that comes with knowing that racists, nativists and anti-immigrant politicians in France have to contend with the fact that the World Cup hopes of Les Bleus rest on the shoulders of black African men.” (Attiah Paper Here)
Yes, many do see France as the last “African team” in the world cup and not just those who feel rejected by the host countries. Professor Khaled A. Beydou, at the University of Detroit, Mercy School of Law, wrote in the ‘Undefeated’ : “Whether nativists, racists and the Marine Le Pens in France like it or not, much of the world views France as the last African team standing in Russia, demonstrating brown and black excellence in all of its glory.” (Beydou Paper Here)
Rwanda’s Natalie Campbell-Rodrigues writes in ‘The New Times’ ( Click Here) that she is happy to see Africa still represented in the World Cup Final by France but would appreciate an African “African team.” “What would the teams of France, Belgium and England look like if their ‘African’ players were motivated to play for the countries from which they and their families originated?”
Is the French team a French Foreign Legion of mercenary players who will play for another country if they don’t make the cut? “You can’t say that they’re Africans,” says Frenchman Nicolas K.. “Most of them are born in France.” Does their success in the French team really indicate an advanced state of integration? This does not show when second and third generation French citizens with African migrant background cheer the team of their ancestry with flags in the streets or boo the French national anthem in the stadium if France plays one of those teams. (For two cases of booing click HERE and HERE)
Or can we attribute the phenomenon to a story of Ayn Rand sport: a philosophy of “Objectivism” in which anything that gets you ahead moves society forward too. So, no matter who you play for, it is good for all.
Let us not forget the finances involved in this World Cup Final. Croatia does not have the army of coaches the French can afford; those who teach the French players everything from how to fake a fall and provoke a foul to specializing in shots at the goal.
I guess the question is: Are France’s “Africans” with migrant background truly French only when the national team wins or are the immigrants and their descendents still street-sweepers, nannies and baby-boomers for the foreseeable future?
Whatever the answer, France’s World Cup victory is seen by those in the ‘Dark Continent’ as an African victory too.
And Yes, Bravo Croatia!