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Les Bleus: A truly diverse and multicultural football team

Abdul Majid
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
139   //    31 Jul 2018, 22:07 IST

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final
France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final

The French national football team is probably one of the most diverse teams in the world. French players of different ethnic identities have contributed greatly to the successes of the national team, elevating them into a world superpower.

Of the 23 players in the French squad, two-thirds are of Arab or African descent. France has also benefited from the children and grandchildren of non-African immigrants.

Players from the origins of countries like Spain, Poland, Portugal, Brazil and even Argentina have contributed to the cause and success of the French team in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

Will this World Cup victory help calm tensions between the many diverse communities living in France? Les Bleus have prided themselves on the Black-Blanc-Beur ideology (Beur being French slang for Arab); the football team has been a model example for integration in French society for years.

But it has not been without controversy.

Four years after France's 1998 win, the idea of a united "Black-Blanc-Beur" country blew up when far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen grabbed the runner-up spot behind president Jacques Chirac in presidential elections.

People were shocked; nobody expected the NF to get so many votes. What made such a usually tolerant, secular and liberal French society vote for someone who went against everything that France was built on?

Les Bleus reached their lowest point ever when certain players from the suburbs were mainly blamed for the team's poor results at the 2010 World Cup. France crashed out of the group stages in South Africa without a single win to their name.

Players like Anelka were at the center of the tensions; when he was sent home after an argument with French coach Raymond Domenech, the team refused to train and things just got worse. They lost to Uruguay and hosts South Africa, and drew with Mexico, to exit with a whimper - much to the disappointment of those watching back home.

The failure that year showed that the relationship between the public and the national team was not always a happy one. That further exposed how complex the interplay between race, immigration and nationality really is.

In 2011, star defender of the 1998 team Laurent Blanc was at the center of controversy. He was accused of being involved in a scheme to create a quota which would limit the number of players with dual-nationality enrolled in French academies to 30% of available spots.

Blanc was cleared of any wrongdoing after being investigated, and was hired as the national team manager for Euro 2012 in which France lost to Spain in the quarterfinals.

This World Cup is a victory for French football and French people, regardless of their ethnicity and background. Even with all the hardships and trials they've faced over the years, this team and their fans have shown us that when you get behind your country, great things can happen.

In my opinion, this victory gives us great lessons worth emulating - lessons about how to deal with immigration, assimilation and multiculturalism, in which France has succeeded for such a long time. These are lessons which many countries can imbibe during these tough times!

Viva La France! See you in Qatar.

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Abdul Majid
CONTRIBUTOR
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