With the World Cup coming closer to its final games for 2018, a USA Today columnist decided that the international tournament makes the perfect argument for immigration.
While excoriating the “stick to sports nonsense” in his July 10 column, Martin Rogers said the call for players to keep their minds on their sport and not social justice issues “doesn’t fly when it comes to the World Cup.”
“If not for the mass movement of humanity around the world, soccer’s favorite tournament would look drastically different,” Rogers wrote, “and this week’s semifinals would be virtually unrecognizable.”
“Soccer and immigration are fully intertwined,” Rogers continued as he noted that most of the players on France’s national team are blacks who immigrated from 12 African countries.
“To those who support the national team, the make-up of the team is either a source of pride or a non-issue. For right-wing groups, it has become fuel for criticism,” Rogers wrote.
However, most Frenchmen are thrilled with the success of “les Bleus,” Rogers noted. “With the exception of a few idiots, our country feels very warmly towards this team,” one fan said. “They are a reflection of France.”
As far as Rogers is concerned, it’s all because of immigration:
In fact, France’s squad is represented by minorities in numbers far exceeding that of immigration levels. According to the Guardian, 78.3 percent of the French squad comes from some kind of migrant background, compared to 6.8 percent of the country overall.
Soccer has proven to be a powerful factor in terms of integrating immigrant communities. Poorer, working-class areas have served as a rich pool of talent, some of which has made its way to the national team.
Rogers also notes that teams throughout Europe are filled with immigrants or players who hail from immigrants. From France to Belgium, to Croatia, immigrants abound.
The mixture is a major selling point for immigration, Rogers says:
“Football allows us to put immigration on stage, a question that is agitating European countries right now,” Yvan Gastaut, a University of Nice historian, told the Associated Press. “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.”
Ultimately the art of being successful at a World Cup is about collecting multiple identities and getting them to work together as a collective and cohesive group, regardless of where they are from.
The games, Rogers concluded, show that “what defines an individual’s worth as a soccer player has nothing to do with his background, and everything to do with what he adds to a team.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.