World Cup

France must not squander unity of victory

France's recent history with football has been tightly linked to the struggle over its identity. For decades, politicians have used the diversity of the national team either as a symbol of integration at work, or as a warning of Le Grand Remplacement (the big replacement) - that "ethnically French" citizens are being excluded by those whose roots lie in Africa.

Following France's win, the far-right writer Renaud Camus has retweeted videos criticising diversity in France. More than half the squad are of African origin, including key players Paul Pogba , Kylian Mbappe and N'Golo Kante , so the team in some ways represents his greatest fears. Yet the scenes of celebration on the Champs Elysees and beyond show how France has claimed these players. It feels like the breath of fresh air that France has so badly needed, after the trauma following the terror attacks of recent years, and an election in which the far-right National Front made the final presidential run-off . In this context, it would seem logical for President Emmanuel Macron to try to use this sporting triumph to bolster his image as a successful, positive and inclusive world leader.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2018, with the headline 'France must not squander unity of victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe