The World Cup and racial politics

On Sunday, France defeated Croatia 4-2 to win the World Cup. I rooted for France, as I normally do once England and the U.S. are eliminated (if Brazil and France are both still playing, my allegiance varies based how much I like the particular players). This year, the U.S. failed to qualify and Brazil was eliminated before England. So rooting for France was an easy decision for me.

Leftists and race-mongers, including former President Obama, promptly noted that the French team contained numerous black players. The Croatia team was all-white.

The New York Times said this:

At a moment when Europe is strained by hostility toward dark-skinned migrants, the winning French soccer team’s nexus of African-origin stars is seen as an implicit rebuke to countries that have historically been less open to immigration.

“Croatia, the team that France defeated in the final, all of whose members are white, represented a country that has “forced back asylum seekers and migrants,” Human Rights Watch said on its website.

Khaled Beydoun, a professor of law, stated:

Whether nativists, racists and the Marine Le Pens in France like it or not, much of the world views France as the last African team standing in Russia, demonstrating brown and black excellence in all of its glory.

(Actual black African teams failed to display much excellence. Only two of the five African places in Moscow were won by black African nations — Senegal and Nigeria — and neither made it to the final 16. The three other African teams — Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt also failed to advance.)

Oddly, we never hear racial crowing when, as happens from time to time, France lays an egg in a major competition. In 2010, for example, France’s mixed-race team had to cheat just to get to the World Cup, and then disgraced itself in South Africa. Poor play was only part of it. There was widespread player insubordination, bordering on mutiny.

I don’t remember hearing anything about the glory and excellence of this supposedly African team back then. Rather, it was Marine Le Pen who purported to draw political/policy lessons from France’s World Cup team. She was wrong to do so then, and the left is wrong to do so now.

Also lost on the Times is the fact that Croatia is a country of only 4.1 million. France’s population exceeds 65 million. Increase Croatia’s white population 15 fold, and I like its chances against France. In fact, combine the Croatian squad with the squad from Serbia (population just under 9 million) and, assuming the players weren’t at each others’ throats, that team would have had a decent shot at beating France this year.

The Times also neglects to note that most of the anti-immigrant sentiment in France these days is directed at Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, and the immigration Croatia has resisted involves Muslims from the embattled Middle East. Apparently, only two members of the French squad, Abil Rami and Nabil Fekir, are of North African origin. Rami didn’t play in the World Cup. Fekir only appeared as a substitute late in matches.

But suppose every member of the team had been of North African descent. A rational Frenchmen (or women) might still question whether a World Cup is worth the terrorism and crime Muslim immigrants have inflicted on France. Heather Mac Donald puts it this way: “The 15 meritocratically selected African-origin players on France’s soccer team are hardly stand-ins for the millions of African and Middle Eastern immigrants who form a vast, unassimilated underclass on the outskirts of European cities.”

Jimmy Quinn at NRO makes perhaps the most salient point. He argues that those who consider France Africa’s team are channeling the nativists and racists they wag their fingers at:

[B]oth groups’ positions stem from an assertion of difference, that even though Mbappé [the French team’s breakout star] and his teammates are French, we ought to emphasize some non-Frenchness the identitarians contrive for their political purposes.

Those celebrating an “African” victory deny these Frenchmen consideration according to their French identity, which they proudly represent. From this vantage point the players are not seen as citizens of the French Republic, but rather as some foreign symbol of multiculturalism. This anti-republican sentiment isn’t only wrong; it contradicts the way the French view themselves, as citizens who should be subject to the same rights and privileges regardless of race.

Watch the way the French players, black and white, proudly sing “La Marseillaise” before their matches begin. They manifest Quinn’s point:

The ideologues who call Sunday’s game an “African” win are just plain wrong, and they faintly echo the far Right, to boot.

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