United in Diversity — France’s Multi-ethnic Squad Conquers the Football World


By Fatima Dabeer

The World Cup came to a thrilling end on Sunday as France emerged victorious, lifting every footballer’s dream prize in Russia.

France was able to experience the feeling of happiness, enthusiasm and delirium again after twenty years. People were out on the streets of Paris, screaming, hooting and partying in the wake of a well-deserved victory.

The diligence, fast-paced skills and the tireless efforts that went into the whole tournament were a true example set by France that dedication and hard work are the keys to success. However, that is not the only example they have set. The diversity of cultures and religions that has been presented in the team is worth mentioning.

Problems like race and identity have been discussed frequently in the modern world. France’s team is the practical demonstration of a true modern era as it selects players on their capabilities and talents rather than their colour and beliefs. In 1998, the team was diverse as well. The people called that team “Black, Blanc, Beur” noting how white, black and North African players came together.

This year’s team was perhaps even more diverse and many commentators have discussed the success of Les Bleus as a return of the “Black, Blanc, Beur” mix. 80 per cent of the team comprises of African players, cutting down racism and xenophobia. 50 per cent of the team is Muslims, cutting down Islamophobia.

Forward Antoine Griezmann’s father emigrated from Germany, and the France forward’s mother is of Portuguese descent. Defender Samuel Umtiti was born in Cameroon and backup goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in Zaire. Others descended from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

“The diversity of the squad is in the image of this beautiful country that is France,” midfielder Blaise Matuidi, whose parents are from Angola and Congo, said through a translator ahead of the match.

“There may be players who come from different origins, but we do have the same state of mind,” Griezmann said, adding that “We all play for the same jersey, the cockerel. For our country, we give everything we have. As soon as you wear the jersey, we do everything for each other.”

Football in France is truly a healing force which is diminishing the crude concepts of racism and discrimination of ethnic minorities.

The multicultural national celebration is not only for the victory but also the celebration of acceptance of ethnic diversity. Griezmann said through a translator after the victory, “This is the France that we love; it’s beautiful to see.”

Culled from Daily Times