All politicians, on the left, right, and far-right are saying it: “France cannot take in all the world’s poor.” And yet the players who gave France its second football world cup are, in part, descendants of “migrants.”
A French team just like working class neighbourhoods.
Millions of people celebrated the French team victory with their friends, family, or in the streets… It was an opportunity for many to celebrate together, with no ulterior motive, a sporting achievement (even though the Croatian team would have deserved a cup for their beautiful game).
The celebration of this team flies in the face of all kinds of racists who expressed, before the final, that the team wasn’t white or pureblood enough. Too bad for them: less football games are played in rich neighbourhoods than in working class areas such as Bondy and Ménival in the suburbs of Lyon, where the striker Mbappé and the defender Umtiti grew up. The French team is just like these working-class neighbourhoods: multicultural.
A pretext for national unity?
But the sporting event was also used as a patriotic show by politicians and news media, complete with national anthem and flags. And during the final game, there was action not just on the pitch but also in the VIP stand: Emmanuel Macron wore his “first supporter” hat and, after the game, hastened to congratulate the players with great outpouring, after the final whistle and in the locker room. Macron had also invited a soldier wounded in Mali to watch the game next to him: army and football united in the same fight for the homeland?
Even some of the players of this 2018 team sing along the patriotic music. Antoine Griezmann, who is more inspiring with a ball than with a microphone, declared: “I want young people to say ‘long live France and the Republic’.”
Already in 1998, the “black-white-arabic” team
That tune of a united France was already being played over and over 20 years ago when France won its first world cup. But the music quickly broke down against hard reality: four years later, far-right Jean-Marie le Pen made it to the runoff of the presidential election and, in 2005, many working class suburbs exploded due to the untenable social and economic situation.
Today, unemployment is higher, local public services are further degraded… Racial profiling and police brutality complete this war on the poor. The northern suburb of Paris, Seine-Saint-Denis, where some of the players have grown up, has an unemployment rate of 19 %. In Maubeuge, the birth city of Benjamin Pavard, the rate is close to 30 %…
This shows what the national unity really is: a myth that’s promoted on celebrations to cover up daily injustices and inequalities, and for the government to cheaply regain some popularity.
For the world cup, let’s celebrate internationalism!
Hypocrisy reaches new levels when left and right wing politicians pay tribute to a team that comprises a majority of sons and grandsons of immigrants, while at the same time they support more and more repressive policy against migrants. Philippines, Mali, Senegal, Algeria, Haiti, Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Morocco, Togo: the French team is internationalist!
At the beginning of the 20th century, the rise of the workers movement was paralleled by a rise in football teams. Workers teams flew the red flag rather than the blue-white-red one and sang the International before the games… As a way to remember that the only boundary is between exploiters and exploited.
The 2018 team has demonstrated solidarity, selflessness and enthusiasm. These values can also be expressed in the class struggle!