The World Cup should be a time of celebration for the inclusiveness of the beautiful game. People around the world are finding joy in watching and living vicariously through 22 men who chase a ball in order to
give Sepp Blatter lots of money immortalize themselves through sporting triumph. But a select group of individuals — around 3,487,869,561 in total — are seemingly bent on ruining the whole thing with nonsensical opinions, a lack of insight and a walloping dose of arrogance. Simply put: men need to stop talking about football.
Since we determined a while ago that women aren’t allowed to have opinions on footballers and have therefore banned them from talking about it, there’s only one group left to blame for the roiling storm of idiocy we get to see on social media. And since we’re in the habit of generalizing to a group based on the actions of a few, here are just a few examples of the staggering football ignorance men can display:
Believing Fernando Torres will do anything other than look forlorn after screwing something up is, in a just world, a capital crime.
Next, a (male) footballer spouting nonsense:
Since that tweet, Neymar has broken into the top ten scorers list for the Selecao, signed for Barcelona and scored a brace in the opening game of the World Cup. Not even professional footballers can be trusted to have sensible opinions on the game — being male is a curse that runs deep. Why should we entrust these emotional, irrational creatures with the ability to clog up our timelines with unceasing drivel?
These are just a few examples, but for years idiotic male opinions have gone unchecked. Men just do not have the mental capacity or the emotional stability to comprehend and enjoy football. When placed on television and asked to comment on the sport, men inevitably talking utter nonsense: “[Everton are] a team of men,” says Jamie Redknapp; Alan Shearer replies, “he literally chopped him in half in that challenge.”
Pundits like Redknapp and Shearer are just a few in a long line of men who have made head-scratching comments about the beautiful game. Their brand of aggressive ignorance have an unreasonable influence on male viewers who don’t know any better, and they ape the flashing-box people to the best of their limited abilities. Years of this cycle has rendered the male gender incapable of forming a sensible opinion when it comes to a the sport.
Men, in other words need to stick to talking about things like monster trucks and movies with explosions every thirty seconds.
And since women have been told they’re not allowed to have opinions already, who are we left with allowed to talk football? Let’s just stick with single-celled organisms. They’re too small to tweet and therefore even if they do have ridiculous opinions it’s difficult to notice. And if protists and paramecia rule the footballing airwaves, at least Shola Ameobi will become more popular.
When France won the World Cup in 1998, the image of an emotional Zinedine Zidane kissing the World Cup trophy became a national signifier of a new France, the icon of a cultural revolution. The 1998 French team, nicknamed “Black, Blanc, Beur’ (black, white and Arab)” was composed of players of diverse backgrounds, many being the children of immigrants. The players’ origins included France, Guyana, Kalmykia, Poland, Armenia, Ghana, Algeria, Guadeloupe, Mantillas, New Caledonia and Argentina. Zidane himself is the son of Algerian immigrants, his parents emigrating from the village of Aguemoune in Kabylie in Northern Algeria to Paris in 1953 before the start of the Algerian War.
One of Zidane’s teammates on that 1998 winning team and a far more outspoken man was Lillam Thuram —born in Guadeloupe before his family relocated to France in 1981, who scored the only two goals of his international career during that World Cup run; scoring the equalizer and eventual winner against Croatia after France had gone down a goal. On the subject of assimilation into French culture for immigrants, Thuram was outraged as what he deemed to be the molestation of the proceeding celebration after his brace against Croatia. Where politicians saw it as a chance to push a narrative of “become a football player if you want to integrate”, Thuram spoke that the celebrations were because people were being liberated from the idea of a certain belief of integration.
The 1998 team was beloved because of the fact that it was so diverse and represented France as a whole. The players not only made history but were the physical representations of the history of France, the good and the bad and for that, it seemed that France had begun to accept itself and the eminent future. That is, until the Laurent Blanc incident after the disastrous 2010 World Cup.
The now infamous 2010 World Cup episode for France, highlighted by the suspension of all 23 players in the squad and the resignation of then soccer federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes was a national embarrassment rarely seen on the biggest stage of World Football. It was after this that new manager Laurent Blanc proposed in secrecy a racial quota for the France national team. In the recordings that were obtained, one of the suggestions that Blanc was fond of was to set a cap of 30% on players with dual-nationalities, he also expressed favoritism with players with, as he said “our culture, our history”, citing that the Spanish national team told him that they do not have any problems because they have no blacks —Marcos Senna should be highly offended.
Blanc and his secret conspirators seemed to lack insight and awareness of what they had labeled as “our culture, our history”.
France, as one of the biggest colonial powers in history, began its second colonial empire —the first one ending in 1814 and most of it lost— in 1830 with the conquest of Algiers, Algeria. And in metaphor for the circular nature of history, ended with the Independence of Algeria in 1962. During this time, France was only behind the British Empire as the largest colonial powers and was sovereign to nearly 1/10th of the Earth’s land mass with a population of over 100 million people by the start of the Second World War. These colonies chiefly were in North and West Africa, with others in Central and East Africa as well as South-East Asia and the South Pacific.
As a brief overview, France first invaded Algeria in 1830, taking 17 years to finally conquer it before moving on to the rest of North Africa with a protectorate in Tunisia with the Bardo Treaty in 1881. Establishing power in North, West, Central and parts of East Africa, it conquered the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti and Madagascar as well. Involved in the Scramble for Africa between 1881 and 1914, which led to 90% of Africa being under European control by the end of it, France was eventually ruler over numerous African nations. In West Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, Albreda-now part of Gambia, French Sudan-now Mali, French Guinea-now…Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, French Upper Volta-now Burkina Faso, French Dahomey-now Benin, and French Togoland, now Togo.
In Equatorial Africa, France ruled: Gabon, French Cameroon, French Congo-now Republic of Congo, Oubangui-Chari-now Central African Republic and Chad. In North Africa: Algeria, Tunisia and French Morocco. East Africa was Madagascar, Comoros, Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean and French Somaliland-now Djibouti.
One doesn’t need to go into detail about the consequences of colonization, but one relatable one that is very evident is not only the 1998 French national team but today’s current 2014 roster. Karim Benzema, star striker of the national team was born to French nationals with Algerian descent, his father and grandfather being born in Tighzert, Algeria. Paul Pogba, the conquering midfielder, is the child of Guinean and Congolese parents. Moussa Sissoko was born to Malian parents. Blaise Matuidi was born to Angolan father and a French mother of Congolese descent. Rio Mavuba’s father played for Zaire while his mother is Angolan. Bacary Sagna, Patrice Evra and Mamadou Sakho are of Senegalese descent, and Raphaël Varane is of Martiniquais heritage through his father. A few other players are immigrants as well, though through European descent.
France’s African connection doesn’t just stop with the French national team either. Because of the high immigration of Africans to France —estimated to be around 42% in 2008 of total immigrants to France— and because of the high number of direct descendent of immigrants born in France (around 5 million being African immigrants), many of the African teams in this World Cup have visible French influences.
For example and because they were the first, Algeria has a great number of players either born or trained in France in their national team. Ishak Belfodil, born in Mostaganem, Algeria is a former France youth international who played for OSC Internazionale as a child. Rafik Djebbour was born Grenoble, France, Laurent Agouazi in Langres, Amir Karaoui in Amnéville, the handsome Ryad Boudebouz in Colmar, Foued Kadir in Martigues, Adlène Guedioura in La Roche-sur-Yon, Féthi Harek in Oullins and Sofiane Khedairia in Valence. That’s almost the entire national team.
With Ivory Coast, we have Giovanni Sio who was born in Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire, France and played with Nantes. Didier Drogba who wasn’t born in France but was sent to France at the age of five to live with his Uncle. Sol Bamba was born in Ivry-sur-Seine and Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro in Toulouse. Though their list of players is not as exhaustive, many of the other players moved to France at an early age in order to ply their trade.
To continue in the same manner would be exhaustive but in the other African teams, there exists the complex of either players born in France who now play for the country of their parents or African players who were born elsewhere but quickly moved and matured in France. And though not one of the French colonies, Ghana was close enough that the infectious black stars also show the distinct Africa-France connection. Jordan Ayew was born in Marseille while his older brother Andre plays for Marseille but was born in Seclin, France.
For the French, it is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it is a phenomenon that deserves celebration. Rather than bemoan the abundance of immigrants on the team, it should be recognized as what France is and always has been. Since the 17th century, France has had its hand in Africa and the history shows in its football team and the people. And for Africans, the celebrations comes in the recognition of oneself in the players in the French national team, many who were a phone call away from starring for an African team.
That is where Blanc and many others have had it wrong. The players on that team are as French as it could get, so are the players on many of the African teams playing in the World Cup. It’s a recognition of the interconnectivity of the world during a global competition that works to bring people closer through sport.
The sky cried and so did I. It was the type of storm that forces self-reflection; the storms that you can’t quite remember when exactly it started, you just look outside and realize that it’s raining. You cringe at the fact that you wore a short sleeved shirt that day —like Flamini— and that you had once again forgotten to pack an umbrella. So you stare outside, pitiful and powerless against the unrelenting weather.
You watch your car get drenched in the rain, thinking that at least it’s getting a wash. You watch till the constant sound of it sends you into a daydream, a beautiful relief interrupted by a ray of light that breaks through the granite sky, and for a few seconds you think the sun will persevere before the drizzle returns like the dreaded Arsenal injury bug. You sigh heavily, the storm and the light, the darkness and hope, allegory of life.
It’s the North London Derby, and make no mistake: LONDON IS RED. Come on you Gunners!