On May 17 2018, Didier Deschamps (World Cup winner as both player and manager) announced his 23-man squad that would head to Russia.
15 members of France’s squad, including Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe and Samuel Umtiti, are of African origin, and their coach Deschamps says that these players still feel attachment to their countries of origin.
Many people have pointed this fact out including Croatia Ex-coach Igor Stimac who has received public criticism for what people call racist remarks. The former coach posted on his Facebook page the question, “who exactly are we playing against?” and listed the French players with African origins.
So where did so many immigrants come from and how did France convert them into the super stars they are?
At the end of World War II much of France was destroyed.
The government set out in search of laborers from Southern and Eastern Europe as well as colonies in Northern Africa to rebuild the country during the late 1940s and 1950s. Consequently, France brought in more immigrants than any other European country at the time.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, France’s Economy grew rapidly and a labor shortage led to another wave of immigrants with even more arrivals from French Colonies throughout West Africa and the Caribbean.
Many of these immigrants settled in major housing developments just outside of the major cities i.e Paris, Lyon, and Marseille.
Due to the French football crisis of 1960 to 1974 where the French national team failed to qualify for three world cups and three European championships, the government decided to set up a national system of developing football talent in the country.
In doing so France became the one of the first countries in Europe to establish a football academy system. The first training center was opened in Vichy in 1972 and others followed years later. Majority of the beneficiaries of these football academies were the children who lived in the outskirts of the major towns i.e. immigrants.
The system delivered results almost immediately as France won their first World cup in 1998. The team that won the cup in 1998 also had immigrants and the country appreciated this fact by nicknaming the team “Black, Blanc, Beur” meaning black white and Arab.
France Winning Team 1998
France winning team 2018
France has always been a multicultural country and by embracing their diversity, they have lifted the most coveted prize in world football. Lesson to the racist countries perhaps?
Author: Brian Gachie