Does France respect its own winning team?
In one of the most widely acclaimed finals in recent decades, the French national team has won the 2018 FIFA world cup, beating out the best teams from around the world.
However, when one looks at the makeup of the team, something becomes undeniably apparent. The team is composed primarily of people of African descent, with the majority identifying as Muslims.
In most cases, this would be a cause for celebration, as it would point to a tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the nation’s wider society. This is not, however, a typical case. France has one of the most gruesome colonial histories of any European nation, a legacy which continues on until today.
France’s history in Africa can be seen clearly in the makeup of its soccer team, with 15 players hailing from an African descent. The nation is infamous for its struggles with immigration from the continent and has been heavily criticised for its Banlieues, suburbs which surround Paris and are home to many disenfranchised and impoverished migrants.
Muslims in particular have been the target of discriminatory policies and rhetoric in recent decades, with the banning of hijabs, niqabs and burkinis in different sectors of French society, a concerted push to “change the way Islam is organised in France” by the current President, and a recent election in which the main opposing party ran on a heavily anti-Muslim platform, and almost won.
This may seem very strange in contrast to the recent images of the French team being welcomed back home to enormous crowds of cheering supports. The President, Emmanuelle Macron, hugging Muslim players from the national team, and the Arc de Triumphe, one of the most iconic symbols of Paris, projecting images of the Muslim players, sit uncomfortably with the rhetoric that was apparent only months ago during the election.
This is a chance for France to identify this inconsistency, and to embrace its immigrant and Muslim populations in a way it never has before.