Did France’s “Diverse” World Cup Team Come At The Cost of African National Teams?

So why take a look at this now after the world cup has passed? Well, waiting a while helps clear the mind and give some time for the fanatics and devoted fans who watch futbol every 4 years to dissipate back to their normal lives where they don’t actually follow any leagues or national teams.

What get’s lost in the mix is some important reflection, particularly that diversity is turning European countries like France, Germany, and Italy into futbol powerhouses at the expense of the nations those players were born in.  It’s almost a form of “cultural appropriation”, but is instead ethnic/racial in nature.   Ironically, we don’t see similar impassioned denouncements from the usual suspects.

National Geographic makes the point about the amount of players born in other countries in a well graphed article,  “See Which World Cup Teams Have the Most Foreign-Born Players”    During qualification for the World Cup, many teams featured foreign-born players. Here are the connections between the national teams.

“Of the 32 teams, 25 of them fielded at least one foreign-­born player during qualification for the world’s most watched single-sport tournament.”

Diversity of “race” may have helped France win the cup, but at cost for the rest of the nations around – particular in West and North Africa? For the most part it appears to have hindered their possible options for their national teams with the exception of Morocco who fielded 13 French born players for their team.  

“Thirty-five French-born players competed for other countries, such as Senegal, Tunisia, and Morocco—a legacy of French colonialism in Africa and waves of immigration.”

Look back and remember all the praise and laudatory congratulations that were given to France not so much for winning, but for the racial and ethnic mix of their players by leading media outlets. Much of it seemed to come from commentators, “journalists”, and tweeters who don’t actually watch futbol outside of the world cup and don’t give a shit about the beautiful game.

We shouldn’t be surprised that media outlets would exploit and hype the racial nature of various World Cup teams for clicks, exposure, and a vibrant comment section sure to attract the worst types of angry people. You’ll be treated to constant reminders of how great, important, and how much of a strength diversity is and how countries without it are apparently racist to some degree. Those terrible Han Chinese, Nigerian, Egyptian, and Japanese racists!  

Hogging The Talent

In the case of France they’ve been able to benefit better than any other national team due to colonization and absorbing people’s from West and North Africa into the French republic over the last two centuries. They end up with players like Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Kylian, Mbappe being born in France instead of Africa because their ancestors came over two or three generations ago. (Predictably places like the US might see these same benefits to it’s national team, but that’s years off.)

Much attention was paid to France as the World Cup winner, but what about the countries some of these players were born in?  Sure French scouts found these players, signed them, and developed them into what they are now – superstars.  The wages these players make however don’t often make it back to their places of birth, nor money from sponsorships, nor money spent in the economy and cities in the nation they were born.

Think about the significance of that – especially in 3rd world countries.

Let’s play out a scenario for a second.  Consider that Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Ghana’s national teams have some absolutely phenomenal players on them.  You can say the same for players from North Africa that hail from Algeria, Morroco, Egypt, etc.   Now imagine if they all decided to play in England and for the likes EPL giants like Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man U, Arsenal, etc.  for better wages, career options and fame, etc.

In fact they enjoy it so much they decided to become English citizens after having been in the country for long enough and play for it’s national team instead.  This end’s up including players like Mohamad Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, Serge Aurier, Eric Bailly, Virgil Van Djik – (plays for the Dutch national team) – and even Wilfried Bony whic entail irreplaceable losses of quality and talent for their perspective home countries squads.    

This does actually happen and the quality and ability of these players are often irreplaceable for the countries they were born.  Consider Karim Benzema plays for France’s national team instead of Algeria.  Patrick Vierra – one of the midfielders of the late 90s moved from Senegal to France and would play for it’s national team.  Marcel Desailly born in Ghana who would play for France instead of Ghana.

That loss of talent was evident in this WC for several African teams which lacked that quality and creative instinct – particular in the midfield to generate chances.  

Victor Wanyama is the best player on Kenya’s national team.  How could they replace a player of his caliber if he decided to move to Germany and become a citizen there? What about Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan for Ghana?  How about Armenia’s Henrik Mkhitaryan? Despite the supposed “racism” row for Mesuit Ozil, the Turkish national team needed him far more than the Germans did as they do Ilkay Gundogan.

I could go on and on with examples of players, but suffice to say lots of players from the 3rd and 2nd world play for top teams in Europe as well as often end up living there and sometimes becoming citizens and gaining residency. Usually they end up playing for them – though sometimes they will play for the country they were born if they aren’t capped a.k.a called up to national squad for games.

This isn’t just the case for African players. Brazilian, Argentinian, and other  Latin American players have and do play for European national teams often being Spain and Portugal.  It even happens in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia whose nations have lost native born players to the top footballing European national squads as players go on to become citizens and thus eligible for national squad selection.

Obviously this might not hurt powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina who boast some of the most talented players in the world as it would Senegal, Kenya, Egypt, Japan, Poland, Armenia, Columbia, the US, or some other national team. 

Why then do these same race-baiting media pundits, who can’t stop drooling in delight over the benefits of “diversity”, not seem to care about the effects of losing these players have on the nations where they were born?  Doesn’t the loss of quality for national teams from 2nd and 3rd world countries matter to them?   Seems like some very deliberate hypocrisy on their part – especially for those benefiting the most from it. 

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