The Immigrants Who Built French Football

The Immigrants Who Built French Football

Talking about France's relationship with immigrants in football is like two things that cannot be separated. They need each other. On the one hand, sometimes there are those who think that the presence of immigrants in France is the beginning of a downfall. On the other hand, immigrants are their heroes in football.

Of course we don't forget how the French progress was World Cup 1998. Apart from acting as the host, at that time they also succeeded in becoming champions in this prominent event for the first time.

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The history of immigrants' relationship with French football has been built for a long time. From the 1890s to the 1910s, many immigrants came to play football. Even at that time the French Athletics Sports Union (USFSA) which held a football tournament was won by a local club owned by a Swiss, Stade Helvetic.

Instead of being resistant like most native people, USFSA actually embraced these immigrants to build football together. For proof, in 1919 the conservative USFSA evolved into the French Federation Football Association (FFF).

In fact, when Ligue 1 (professional league) first started in 1932, around 35% of the players who played at that time were foreign players.

Nationalism Issues

From 1996 to 1998, when France hosted the world cup, a hot issue arose at that time. The issue of nationalism. This issue was brought up by a politician named Jean-Marie Le Pen who came from the right-wing populist group the National Front.

He criticized that the French squad at the time, World Cup 1998 is not a reflection of native France itself. “They are an artificial squad!” said LePen.

Like parties in general, at that time Le Pen was building the group for his interests to advance to the presidential election in 2002. The National Front group indeed often raises sensitive issues, which are taboo to discuss such as the issue of immigrants.

Even then when the French economy was failing, he accused and blamed immigrants. He thinks that it is immigrants who make the economy in France not good.

When World Cup 1998, then head coach of France, Aime Jacquet summoned 23 players to participate in the world cup. Of the 23 players, there are at least 16 players who are immigrants or are black. This made Le Pen attack Jacquet. He thinks that the 16 players can't even sing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

Evidence of Immigrants

When World Cup 1998, immigrants managed to silence Le Pen's mouth. France managed to become champions with a convincing score of 3-0 over Brazil. Interestingly, two goals were bought up by an Algerian immigrant and Muslim, Zinedine Zidane.

The Immigrants Who Built French Football
Source: FIFA.com

Since then, the name Le Pen seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Moreover, the interval of two years to be World Cup champion, France managed to win the European Cup in 2000. This emphasized that the diversity in the French squad is not a threat to them. Precisely the threat lies with people who really don't like diversity.

Since World Cup 1998, Zidane et al. building together French football. At that time a new nickname appeared for France, namely “Tricolore” with mythology Black-Blanc-Beur. This mythology means Black-White-Arab refers to three identities that become one. Since then, France has become a team with its multiculturalism, representing the spirit of the French Revolution: freedom, equality, fraternity (freedom, equality, fraternity).

It's a little interesting to go back a few years, many immigrants whose names are remembered as native idols. In the 1950s there was Raymond Kopa et al. who at that time succeeded in bringing France into the semifinals of the 1958 and 1960 World Cups.

Meanwhile, in the 1980s, together with the star Michel Platini who came from Italian parents and his friends, Les Blues won the European Cup in 1984 and qualified for the semifinals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

Back in the 2000s there were lots of French stars who were immigrants. Apart from Zidane, who is from Algeria. There are also Patrick Vieira the one from Senegal. Lilian Thuram and Thierry Henry who are of Guadeloupe descent. As well as David trezeguet, Fabian Barthez, and Bixente Lizarazu who come from a Spanish-speaking country.

In addition, on World Cup In 2018 in Russia, when France became the champion, they could not be separated from the attention of immigrants. The head coach at that time, Didier Deschamps called up 23 players of which 15 of the total were immigrant players.

The existence of 15 immigrant players also became the backbone when France won the championship. There are Ousmane Dembelle and Thomas Lemar who come from Nigeria. N'Golo Kante is of Malian descent. Paul Pogba has Guinean blood. Nabil Fekir who is from Algeria. As well as Samuel Umtiti and Kylian Mbappe who are descended from Cameroon,

As for the 2022 World Cup, it is not much different from the 2018 squad. There are several additional immigrant players, such as Eduardo Camavinga who is of Congolese blood. Tchouameni and William Lilina have Cameroonian ancestry. Jules Kounde from Benin. As well as Dayot Upamecano from Guinea.

The Immigrants Who Built French Football
Source: NY Times

Of course, this diversity can be a powerful weapon for France in wading through 2022 World Cup in Qatar. We just have to wait and see what role these French immigrant players have played for a long time in the development of French football.

Because the truth is that football belongs to everyone, regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion or ideology. Adieu!

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