During the World Cup 2018, there were many teams which surprised and disappointed national fans, however something that was not lacking was the racial and religious diversity on many teams.
If we look at the World Cup winners, the French team which was a multi-racial team that defied the traditional idea of what it means to be French.
The estimated population of France as of 2018 is 65.23 million people, of which around 11.8 million of the population are migrants of different ethnicities and religions. With the French terror attacks in 2015 and especially the 2016 attack, racial and religious tensions have been high. Additionally, the approval of the most recent immigration bill in April 2018 which has contributed to a harsher treatment of immigrants and refugees.
Questions on attitudes on immigration and identity arose when almost half of their French football team were from African descent. The French press coined the team as “Génération Black, Blanc, and Beur” loosely translated as ‘Generation Black, White and Arab’ which they think describe the new multi-ethnic and multi-racial France. It is surprising that the universal ‘Frenchness’ of them all have been ignored in the most part bar on the football pitch. Many of these footballers come from former French-African colonies like Kylian Mbappe, the striking star of the team.
How better to show pride and respect for your country than representing your country on a national level, and especially during the World Cup 2018? This symbolises a certain type of patriotism, as many of these players have dual nationalities as well.
The issue of immigration in France is sometimes linked to diversity in culture and ideas but in Le Pen’s vision of France it is linked with crime, burden and alien. One would expect sports, especially football to be a glimpse into the ethnic makeup and diversity of a nation. However, in actuality it may be a figment of a perfect utopian nation where immigration status and race are not the topic of debate, but instead focuses on only skill and merit. Some would argue that this would be an idealistic answer to a tournament that only lasts for a month every 4 years to fix a decades old problem.
As an avid national fan, this Russian World Cup showed a progression in international politics in some aspects. However, some questions were left unanswered. Would Arab and African immigrations be more accepted or included after the World Cup? as victorious or defeated world superstars returned to their home nations as the shining beacons of their countries upcoming sport stars. Many thousands watched the world cup from fan zones like Chaban-Delmas stadium (Bordeaux)- which can hold 30,000, Lyon City Hall (20,000) and around 250,00 people watched from the Champs de Mars, Champs-Elysees, Place de Concorde near the Eiffel Tower combined in Paris.
Sport, especially national sport, brings people together and may eventually transcend politics and narrow the racial and ethnic division between people.