Victory a testament to support for growing young talent: Tharman

Players of France receiving their medals after winning their Fifa World Cup 2018 final against Croatia in Moscow on July 15, 2018.
Players of France receiving their medals after winning their Fifa World Cup 2018 final against Croatia in Moscow on July 15, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

France's World Cup win is a testament to what can be achieved when young people are supported in developing their talents, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

In a Facebook post hailing the victory of the French World Cup team, Mr Tharman noted that half of the French team consisted of sons of African immigrants who grew up in the poor suburbs of Paris and Lyon.

Many of these immigrant families came from nations that are former French colonies.

Nineteen-year-old Kylian Mbappe, the first teenager to score a goal in a World Cup final since Brazilian footballer Pele scored twice against Sweden in 1958, was among them. Mbappe's father came from Cameroon, while his mother was born in Algeria.

Another was Paul Pogba, the 25-year-old midfielder who scored France's third goal of the final, who was born in France to Guinean parents.

Mr Tharman credited Paris' impressive World Cup record to the French system of providing qualified coaches to the poor immigrant neighbourhoods.

The capital city has produced 15 home-grown players, more than any other city in the world, he said.

 
 

He quoted a migrant mother from Cameroon as saying: "We are contributing to French progress. I owe a lot to France… Maybe my son can be the next Mbappe."

However, a World Cup victory and the unity seen in the resulting celebrations will not be enough to overcome the lack of opportunities and longstanding prejudices that immigrant families from poor neighbourhoods face, he added.

France has grappled with racial and religious tensions in recent years, after a series of terror attacks by people claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"But it shows what is possible when a leaf is taken from the French football system, and every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths," wrote Mr Tharman.

Rei Kurohi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2018, with the headline 'Victory a testament to support for growing young talent: Tharman'. Print Edition | Subscribe