France’s roster shows World Cup a win for diversity

MOSCOW—To the French national motto liberté, egalité, fraternité you can probably go ahead and add diversité, at least as far as its soccer team is concerned.

Because at a time of rising xenophobia and an anti-immigrant backlash on both sides of the Atlantic, France has made it to Sunday’s World Cup final against Croatia with one of the most diverse and multi-ethnic rosters of any national team in any sport.

ixteen of the 23 players on the team come from families that recently immigrated to France from places like Zaire, Martinique, Cameroon, Morocco, Angola, Congo or Algeria. Forward Antoine Griezmann, the team’s leading scorer, is half-German and half-Portuguese. Defender Samuel Umtiti, who scored the goal that sent France to the final, was born in Cameroon. Teenage prodigy Kylian Mbappe is part Cameroonian, part Algerian.

Even captain Hugo Lloris, the goalkeeper, traces his recent roots to Spain. And France is going to need contributions from all of them against a Croatian team whose players, seared in a bloody civil war, have refused to lose in this World Cup, winning all three of their knockout-stage games in extra time or penalty kicks.

“Football,” Yvan Gastaut, a University of Nice historian, told the Associated Press, “allows us to put immigration on stage, a question that is agitating European countries right now.

“For people who see immigration as a danger, this World Cup story won’t resolve that. But it allows us to take stock of the reality of the world, of mobility, movements, multiple identities.”

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