In 2018, shortly after the French world title, South African comedian Trevor Noah said on TV that Africa had won the men’s soccer World Cup. That’s because, from the winning team, 17 of the 23 players would be able to play for another nation, almost all of them African.
Days later, the French ambassador in the United States, where Noah lives and works, sent a stern letter to the broadcaster that employs him saying that the communicator was completely mistaken, that all the players on the national team had been educated in France, socialized in France and which were an expression of French diversity.
On the air, Trevor read the letter and explained that the players were, in fact, an expression of French colonialism.
The offended ambassador’s letter demanded that the black players be called by Noah French and not African.
Noah argued that when the immigrant is unemployed on the streets of Paris he is called an African by the institutions; when he is a World Cup winner wearing the shirt of France he must obligatorily be called only French.
The communicator asked if it was fair that it should be so.
There are hundreds of refugee camps in the world today.
They are spaces where citizens of countries destroyed by colonial practices are imprisoned, treated as a sub-category, getting sick and dying in a diplomatic limbo that does not allow them to remain in their homes and does not tolerate them entering other countries. They are people left to die.
Noah explains that the black players on the French national team can and should be called African and that this does not exclude French citizenship from each of them. Which can be both.
Before welcoming immigration for football purposes, France was a dwarf in the sport.
After the generation of Zidane, the son of Algerians whose country was exploited to the last drop by the violent practices of French colonization, France is now one of the giants of football.
The game is a mirror of life. Immigration doesn’t just elevate us within the four lines.
Immigration elevates us as a species. In universities, in communication, in art, in culture, in technology.
Erasing the hardness of borders, thinking about public policies of inclusion, talking about what European colonialism did to the world, demanding reparations, telling history through the eyes of the decimated.
It would be important for that to be the narrative.
Let us talk more about what immigration has done for football in France, taking it from complete sporting insignificance and placing it in the dimension of one of the greatest teams in the world.