Last week signaled the end of the world's (arguably) most favorite sporting event, the World Cup. France came home with a stunning 4-2 win, the first in 20 years of the country's World Cup history. While recapping the finest moments of their victory, I couldn't help but notice that more than half of France's team players were people of color.
With comments like "Congratulations Africa" and "Victory for the African nation of France," it seems like the world noticed the team's obvious diversity as well. In fact, 15 out of the 23 players on the team were of African descent. That's more than half of the entire team. Players like Pogba and Mbappe are the children of African immigrants from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Guinea just to name a few.
While France's diverse talent definitely played in their favor, a recent joke from comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah sparked controversy with the French ambassador to the U.S. When Noah said, "Africa won the world cup," the French ambassador took to Twitter in disgust for the comment because it seemed to deny the players their "Frenchness" simply due to their African heritage.
Noah's response to the criticism offered a different perspective on the issue.
In short, he pointed out that by him highlighting the Africanness of these players, why should that diminish their Frenchness? I mean, why can't they be both?
Even better, when do countries choose to claim immigrants as citizens?
Noah points to the African immigrant who literally climbed a building to rescue an infant; he was immediately granted citizenship and referred to as a great Frenchman. But when there are robberies or unsavory events caused by people of African descent, the media is quick to call them "African immigrants" no matter how long they've lived in Europe.
If you look at the African countries from which these players originate from, you can't help but notice that they were colonized by the French. Noah refers to this "diverse background" as a direct reflection of France's "colonialism" which is a fact that ultimately cannot be denied.
It's easy to pin people by the color of their skin or their last names rather than the country they call home. I've noticed that some countries do pick and choose when to call immigrants "citizens" and vice versa. In reality, we assume nationalities when we move to a country and possess both as a part of our identity. No matter what you choose to call them, when the sons of these individuals are bringing home the world's greatest trophy, you can't help but feel national pride. Even as a Nigerian-American, I, too, feel like the African continent has experienced a victory through the players of France.
So maybe, in a way, Africa did win the World Cup and so did France.
There's no denying that France is quickly becoming a melting pot of people, cultures and ideas. Therefore, we must respect and acknowledge the duality of a person's identity. We can't pick a side when it's convenient, but we can recognize both when we succeed.