Including in Africa, the national selections use players of foreign origin, half-breeds and other dual nationals. Why blame France for this?
How to understand the dubious jokes and taunts bordering on racism about the France team? In 2018, the day after the World Cup organized by Russia, the American comedian, Trevor Noah, had authorized the controversy by evoking the victory of “an african team.” Although he had retained his reference to “their African identity“, he had nevertheless retracted, claiming to have wanted “celebrate diversity” without denying the players their “French identity.Four years later, the same rhetoric keeps coming back. Can we trivialize it? Can we live with these analyzes worthy of the extreme right? Should we transform a football team into an outlet for the frustrations born of the excesses of Françafrique?
A misunderstood concept
Of course, France can be criticized for not promoting enough blacks, for not recognizing them at their fair value or for having allowed a form of racism to settle. We can always echo Trevor Noah and say like him: “When they are unemployed, committing a crime or being unpleasant, they are referred to as African migrants. But when their children win a World Cup for France, they shouldn’t be referred to as French people..” We can even discuss the consequences of France’s policy in Africa. But we must not mix everything up or overuse the notions. In other words, we cannot balance the mistakes of a mafia caste with the performance of sportsmen. Beyond that, we must not hide the commentary to constitute and preserve an identity: through the interaction between groups.
Like Françafrique, identity is a mistreated notion. Object of various fantasies, it serves to justify everything and its opposite. Throughout the last World Cup, we heard two sentences revealing a cognitive bias: “We have to beat this France which is creating disorder in Africa” and “support for our African brothers and the last representative of Africa.” On the one hand, we want to use football to make a country pay for the mistakes of its foreign policy. On the other hand, we give ourselves the right to validate or refute the citizenship of this same country, in the name of people’s origins. However, if sport can help materialize a political project, it is never at the origin. Applied to football, the methods of Françafrique would have given rise to the looting of national championships. Is that the case ? No, almost all of the players were born or raised in Europe where they all play. Better, near or far, an origin does not make a citizen. Nor does it define a nationality.
Notwithstanding racist or segregationist theses, nationality is not a biological concept but a legal one. Should we deny it? Should genetics be put before the law? Including in Africa, many countries practice naturalization, integration and assimilation. Even in our latitudes, the national selections use players of foreign origin, half-breeds and other dual nationals. Why blame France for this? In the name of the race? But, race does not define nationhood. Even better, were he black, a West Indian is a Frenchman like any other. As for the Metis, they are legitimate in the countries of their mothers as in those of their fathers. The naturalized? Unless you want to make them second-class citizens, you cannot attach them to other countries against their will.
And “african identity»? Myth or reality ? In Africa, identities are many and varied. As everywhere in the world, identity is neither natural nor immutable, but evolving. On this subject, numerous existing studies. More eloquently, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have recently shattered this theme with regard to Guélor Kanga. If they remembered it, if they gave themselves a higher value than the innate, if they took into account the existence of overseas territories, if they integrated the legs of history, many commentators would probably not have fallen for these intellectual shortcuts. Not to displease them, football also contributes to reconciling France with its history, its geography and its legislation and even its sociology. At the same time, this sport is both a vector of integration and a social lift: by helping the emancipation of many blacks, it offers them more visibility. Why complain about it?