France was crowned world champions last night for only the second time in their history, and if there’s one thing which can be deemed instrumental in helping the French team win, it would be immigration.
The win becomes all the more poignant when one considers that among the Western powers, France has faced the worst brunt of terrorism in the last four years, being at the center of two of the world’s worst attacks. First Paris, then Nice. But while America and some other nations in Europe have become tight-fisted and have answered the call to nativist populism, France has consciously rejected that path, and the result is there for all to see.
This is not to say that the French team won solely because of their border liberalism, but it played a major part. Had the French not been so accommodating of people from different races and nationalities, this French team would not be what it is today. In fact, a number of the most prominent French players are sons of parents who immigrated to the country.
Take, for example, Antoine Griezmann. His father hailed from Germany, while his mother was born in Portugal. They both moved to Paris, where Griezmann grew up. Or Kylian Mbappe, who became only the second teenager since Pele to have scored in a World Cup final match, whose father immigrated from Cameroon, while his mother came from Algeria. Or take the family of another of last night’s heroes, Paul Pogba, whose parents immigrated from Guinea. In fact, two of Pogba’s brothers play for the Guinea national team, and not France. But Pogba felt enough affinity for the country which gave him abode and which became his home, that he did his best to help them clinch the World Cup title in Russia.
My latest in ESPN –
'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.' #WorldCuphttps://t.co/XhHYfZiGAN
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) July 4, 2018
The list could go and on, but ultimately, all the players who represented the France national team are French, and that has been possible because of the country’s commitment to not forget the ideals that led to its creation. As Antoine Griezmann put it eloquently after the game when asked about the different origins of the French players.
Interviewer: The team brought together players of different origins. Your parents, Pogba, Mbappa. If they did not come to France, there would be no such victory.
“Yes, this is France. People of different origins. But we are all one, all in the team are equal. We are all filled with one spirit. We tried to do everything for the coach and the country.”
Hopefully, America could take a leaf from the French book once again. A country which has become great because of its historic embrace of people from different races and regions should not let go of that most essential of ideals. Because coming together ultimately pays off, and not the other way round.