Now that the World Cup is Over, let’s talk about the Team that brought victory to France

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The World Cup has now ended, with France emerging as the victor. Amid all of the celebrations and ceremonies, one thing really rang true for many who observed the games. Beyond the sport, the national pride each team brought, maybe none is as interesting as this French win.

I found it very interesting that this team, now the global champion of soccer, is comprised up of almost 80% immigrant and 50% Muslim team members. Of the four goals the France team scored in their final match against Croatia, two were scored by the sons of African immigrants; Kylian Mbappe whose mother is Algerian and father is Cameroonian, and Paul Pogba, whose parents immigrated from Guinea. Ironically, the French, who are often in the political spotlight for their xenophobic and Islamophobic social policies, didn’t seem to mind that their winning football team is comprised mostly of the very people those policies and practices effect most.

I am not alone in my sentiment. In fact, shortly following the French win against Croatia, social media erupted, as was expected. However, there weren’t simply congratulatory videos and posts, there were also numerous calls to end the racist, nationalist, xenophobic practices that exist in France.

Here in the States, we are very familiar with the irony of sport and politics, that the majority of our own top athletes are People of Color, and are also from communities of historically and currently oppressed peoples. Seeing the French team, comprised mostly of oppressed peoples, win soccer’s highest victory, resonated with us here as well, despite the fact that soccer here doesn’t get the respect that it does around the globe. “Africans and Muslims delivered you a second World Cup, now deliver them justice,” wrote American author Khaled Beydoun.

How strange it is to win for your country, a place where you were born, on the world’s highest stage for that sport, knowing full well that the place that you have won for maybe enacting policies against your own people. This is the plight of the Black athlete living in Europe and the States.

While we cheer for them, wear their jerseys, and passionately talk about their performances, let us acknowledge their personhood above their athleticism and grant them the equality their communities deserve.

Whitney Alese is a writer, podcaster and cultural commentator. Featured in WIRED Magazine (September 2020). She is based in Philadelphia.

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