[Sorry for the title, I did not mean to say left wingers love the world cup, instead. Or centrebacks for the matter.]
In the 1990s, France struggled to grapple with African migrants, both the North variety (Muslim and Arab) and the rest of the continent. A mighty European civilisation pays for people from their old colonies. Their developed economy attractive to the impoverished.
Scenes of squalid ghettos and forced evictions, to remove the new arrivals went in cycles. It’s complicated.
So when France hosted the World Cup in 1998, the right wing national — or nutter — Jean-Marie Le Pen was quick to point out the Les Bleus were not French, because about half of the team was migrant class.
Marcel Desailly, can’t be French, too black and born in Ghana.
Zinedine Zidane, of Algerian descent was too Muslim, and should swim across the Mediterranean to play for THEM.
Lilian Thuram was born, yes, in the French West Indies (Guadeloupe) but still certainly came from Africa a long time ago.
Viera, Karembeu, Pires, Henry and on and on, they all were not French enough.
To Le Pen it should be a certain colour, a certain background to be truly French.
The boys did their talking on the field, winning the cup in Paris exactly twenty years ago
France readies itself for a World Cup final again, and Le Pen is nowhere to be seen. Even his daughter, Marine, who heads the right wing and former presidential candidate steers away from questioning the French-ness of the players.
For can someone call themselves for liberté, égalité and fraternité if they felt it would mean more for white Olivier Giroud than the Cameroon-Algeria mulatto Kylian Mbappé to score the winning goal on Sunday?
I want to believe there are very few with that much hate in their hearts.
But the point remains, things change when bigotry is challenged.
This is not to say race relations in France is wonderful, of course not.
But things do change. Slowly, but surely. Look at France.
Twenty years ago, a key politician used race to raise support for himself, and enough people agreed with him, even if the majority were against him. He and his crowd were not getting their way, but in that time they could be openly racist.
Today, while the right wing nutters are up and about in their usual nutty way, they can’t scream abuse at every non-white person, they have to operate in a nuanced way.
Is that as far as we can get? Of course not.
If the French team win on Sunday, they’d be ratcheting up the idea that France is white, blue and red, not just white.
Which draws me to developments in Malaysia, and how the Malay ultras, a are bent on setting tiers in Malaysian citizenship, struggle with reform in Malaysia. For them, citizenship is not parity, it has grades within it.
Can’t blame them, institutions and parties, one party in particular, held it up as fact, even if it is fiction.
So these days of change, can a be a bit much for them.
They must be doubly upset, that the godfather of the ultras, is actually heading the reforms. Mahathir Mohamad, the former hate guru, dances to several tunes these days as he tries to stave off the accusations he and his Pribumi party have gone soft on the “other” Malaysians.
I cheer on those challenging pillars formed without reason but on a combination of bias, intolerance and cultural supremacy, because over time, something stupid will become self-evident if enough people point it out constantly. At some inevitable point, they’ll get embarrassed because they are, these ideals they hold, are silly.
Such is the story.
Sports is an amazing thing, and while I watch a whole generation of international footballers being schooled about showing class and being colour blind, professional football today offers thousands of role models.
Perhaps the bigots can learn about them, not just the football.
I lied about the story appealing to the right wingers, they prefer stories which end with brutality, masked as doing the right thing. But I realise they also like to be lied to.