The 2018 FIFA World Cup was alight with surprises and unexpected twists throughout its entirety—the defending champion Germany getting knocked out in the group stages (still upset about that tbh) along with powerhouses Portugal and Argentina getting slotted in the Round of 16, Russia's improbable run deep into the quarter-finals, and Croatia's absolutely incredible venture into their first ever FIFA World Cup Finals, culminating in France's victory for only the second time in its career as a nation made for an incredible tournament in Russia.
While the United States was unfortunately unable to qualify and compete this time around, there are some key takeaways that we can utilize as a country from the success of this incredibly diverse French side in Moscow—namely, the idea of immigration as a force for good, which has been set alight as a largely controversial topic of discussion by consistently inflammatory remarks made by our President and various members of the far right-wing sections of the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, the value of immigration as a core component of our great nation and the work ethic displayed by those who aspire to achieve what is touted as the "American Dream" is downplayed by pure-blood activists such as Steve Bannon (how that monster of a human—actual Neo-Nazi and white supremacist—became a political strategist still defies conventional expectation) and Tomi Lahren (who seems to think that the only acceptable immigrants are ones coming from Europe like her own), among many others of the Republican Party who claim themselves loyal to the United States, a country that was founded upon the principles of freedom from tyranny and the hope of a new life for those seeking justice and prosperity.
The central aspect of ridding our nation of whom Trump calls "illegals" was one of the founding pillars of the dogma that took Republicans by storm during the 2016 election cycle, and was a major factor that led to Trump's rise to power and the destruction of moderation of Republican ideals by candidates such as John Kasich in favor of an extreme set of tactics designed to beat down and discourage the very concept of American immigration.
So far, we have had several attempts to ban Muslim immigration outright from select countries and multiple efforts to reduce the flux of immigration across the Mexican border, which has culminated into a substantial crisis as ICE has routinely separated migrant children from their families in an effort to undermine the attempts of those who seek political asylum in the United States for a chance at a new life, away from the horrors that they fled from. Our President and Congress have done nothing but degrade the concept of immigration from nations other than Europe.
Beyond just the United States, the status of immigration throughout Western Europe has come into question amidst a rising tide of right-wing candidates such as Marie Le Pen of France and political parties such as Alternative for Germany, who preach about the sanctity of national identity as the backbone of patriotism. Such contingents constantly prove their hypocrisy about the value of their so-called nationalism by pointing to national sports figures as a symbol of their countries prowess but then insulting those very athletes for their perceived lack of national character during a loss.
Whilst on the subject of the World Cup, no athlete comes more prominently to mind as a scapegoat for his national identity than Mesut Ozil, a key figure of the German National team (colloquially known as Die Mannschaft) who has been constantly ridiculed by the German right-wing for his perceived lack of Germanness due to his silence during the National Anthem (Ozil has stated that he prays during this time to ensure success), amongst a plethora of other accusations. Despite the overall poor performance of the entire German squad at this year's World Cup, it was Ozil who was singled out as a pariah by the AfD, and not for the first time.
Amongst all of the Germany squad, it is Ozil's Turkish roots that are the most heavily inspected, in spite of his unquestionable talent as one of the best midfielders in the game, and the status of other immigrants and the children of immigrants that have donned the black and white national jersey, including Sami Khedira, Lukas Podolski, and Miroslav Klose. When the team wins, they praise the strength of the collective unit; when they lose, it is often Ozil who is left taking the majority of the backlash himself. The hypocrisy of the right-wing in Europe truly is astounding.
Enter the French National team, a contingent of 23 players spanning a wealth of nationalities including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Algeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Germany, Portugal, and Spain, amongst various others. All but 2 of these footballers were born and raised in France, and their devotion to their home allowed them to put aside their differences to fight together for the collective whole of Les Bleus, culminating in a victory that can be defined as a success story for all immigrants.
In the passion of the beautiful game, it mattered not who they were as individuals, but what they represented—the ethos of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity that defined their character as a unit, and that is why they stand triumphant as world champions. The victory of the French at this year's World Cup is a symbolic icon of the value of diversity in today's world.