Comment | France’s World Cup squad shows the country is changing | Bot To News

These players comprise what some scholars and activists now call “Black France,” arguing that the nation must recognize the central place of Africa and the Caribbean in its history and future. As the French feminist writer and scholar Maboula Soumahoro put it in a recent memoir, it is a simple request for recognition: “I, tooI am France.”

But there is still strong opposition. This year, Marine Le Pen, the heir to her father Jean-Marie’s far-right party, won more than 13 million votes in her bid for the presidency. There have been persistent accusations from across the political spectrum that calls to embrace France’s ethnic diversity threaten to divide and undermine the republic. Although they have changed, racism and colonial traditions continue to shape French culture.

Of course, some of the same people who voted for Ms Le Pen cheered when France beat Australia, Denmark and Poland in Qatar and will be rooting for victory when France face England on Saturday. Even those who express openly racist views find it surprisingly easy to support black athletes when it suits them. But the accumulated experience in supporting and celebrating the national team, Mr. Duram advocates in his writings and the work of his Anti-Racism Foundation to help bring about “a shift in our collective imagination.” Through their successes, the nation’s athletes provide the team with diversity as a strength and, by extension, a positive outlook for France – in the process fostering new ways of thinking about what the nation is and can be.

France enter this year’s World Cup without several players, including Mr Pogba, since 2018 due to a series of injuries. But Mr. Mbappé is back with new players from 2018, including Moussa Dembélé, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Dayot Upamecano and Marcus Thuram, son of Lilian Thuram.

In its first two games, France stormed the pitch and secured the team’s fans around the world with a joyous performance. It now advances to the quarter-finals, where it faces England. Mr. Mbappé has been its star and has already scored five goals. As Liberation newspaper put it, France is “sailing on its wings” as the team moves through the tournament as one of its favourites.

In France this year, the discussion was less about the team than about the competition.

Mayors of several major French cities decided not to set up regular public viewing areas to protest corruption and human rights abuses linked to the competition, and in some cities activists used special remote controls to turn off televisions. Bars showing games. But if France’s form continues, this early lull around the tournament will bring an irresistible buzz and joy to the team’s players for a good run at the World Cup and a new round of excitement. Of course, Mr. As Benzema reminds us, that can always change based on what happens next.

As I cheer for the French team, I also root for a France that finally faces and embraces all its troubled histories, seeing them as a source of collective strength and possibility. Speaking to his teammates before the 2018 final, Mr. Pogba made it clear that the communities they belong to are all part of the country’s future: “Tonight, I want us to become part of everyone’s memories. French people watching us. Their children, their grandchildren, even their great-grandchildren.”

Laurent Dubois (@FootballPolitics) is a professor at the University of Virginia and author of “The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer.”

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