France Won the FIFA World Cup: Loved or Loathed by Far-right Political Leaders?

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Soccer Football - World Cup - Final - France v Croatia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 15, 2018 France's Olivier Giroud lifts the trophy as they celebrate after winning the World Cup REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Every four years emerges a FIFA world cup champions and the tournament is considered as the most watched sports event in the world. The FIFA world cup 2018 was the 21st FIFA world cup and it took place in Russia. 32 teams from across the globe alongside their fans came to Russia to compete for the FIFA world cup trophy. Many big teams with mesmerizing and supper stars players of the world like Argentina and Portugal, Germany and Spain with hundreds of millions of fans around the world left the tournament earlier than it was expected by football pundits.

Les Bleus (The Blues) the French National Team encountered enormous challenges and fought hard against small and big teams in the tournament to book a spot in the final against an uncourageous, compact and dynamic team of Croatia.  Les Bleus were able to bury the pain of their defeat in Euro 2014 and the worst ever experience of FIFA World Cup in South Africa where they left the tournament at the group stage.  The breathless victory over Croatia (4-2) at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow brought joy and happiness not only to the French but also to their fans who reside in Algeria, China, Panama, Iceland, and Afghanistan just to name a few countries. For the French, national football team to participate and make it to the final and triumph against Croatia was all about the prize, including national pride, fame, glory, and the FIFA World Cup itself, plus $38 million.

However, for the Far-right politicians of the European Union members who are getting more public attention and snatching more votes nowadays has a very different meaning because it makes it difficult for them to sell out their policies to the voters. Divide and rule.

Far-right politicians in France, England and in a number of other European countries blame all the Arab, and African migrants for every single issue, it starts from lack of job opportunities, economic slowdown, terrorist’s attacks, to their failure in the big sports tournaments.

France before winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998 against Brazil, the far-right leader of the Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen argued that some of the members of the French National Team are foreigners and did not know how to sing the national anthem. And then a Zinedine Zidan, a Muslim born to Algerian parents (Smail and Malika), scored twice against Brazil and won the FIFA World Cup for France. As a result, the politics of divide and rule by Jean-Marie Le Pen the leader of the Front National lost its importance to people who for so long believed in FN’s philosophy.

File Photo: Marine Le Pen

This time, as the French team is taking home the FIFA world cup trophy, the far-right politicians will encounter even more challenges than Jean-Marie Le Pen faced right after 1998 when Zinedine Zidan helped France to win the world cup. French football players who were born to parents (Arabs and Africans) get criticized for wrong reasons time and again. Very recently Marine Le Pen the new leader of the National Front has argued that the failure of the French national team was down to them having another nationality in their hearts, referring to players born to migrant parents.

Players like Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe the two superstars who carried the French national team to the final of the FIFA world cup in 2018 and scored goals against Croatia, once again put the far-right politicians not only in France but also in neighboring countries in Europe in hot water. This is the beauty and power of sports particularly football as the most watched sport in the world that brings people tighter and make the lives of politicians enormously difficult who aim to achieve their political goals by the destruction of the social fabric of the societies.

Walid Rahman graduated with a masters in International Relations from the University of Queensland in Australia. He has worked for UNYP, UNHCR, Global Young Voices, Global Diplomatic Forum. He lives in Afghanistan and works as a senior lecturer at the University of Afghanistan

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