To what extent can football promote integration?

Many players in the new football world champion team France and other teams that participated in the Fifa World Cup have migration backgrounds. Commentators discuss whether football can have a positive, long-term impact on integration.

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Le Monde (FR) /

No lasting impact

We shouldn't expect too much from football, writes history professor Pap Ndiaye in Le Monde citing France's World Cup win in 1998 as an example:

“We know that the political and social expectations aroused by the exploits of Zinédine Zidane and his teammates were just an illusion that was quickly shattered: in 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round of the presidential election and the riots of 2005 were a grim reminder that 1998 had done nothing to change the dismal circumstances in the poorer banlieues. Sporting victories offer no more than short-lived moments of shared joy. Yes, these are precious and memorable, but they have no lasting impact on society.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Success is proof enough

National football teams can help to dispel prejudice, Jutarnji list believes:

“If there had been no migrants on the team perhaps France wouldn't have become world champion. It won the championship for the first time in 1998, when the brunt of the work was done by players who came from other countries. Now this has been repeated. The same goes for Belgium and Switzerland. Belgium wouldn't have got so far without players of African origin. Nor would Switzerland if it hadn't had four players of Albanian origin, two Croats, a Bosnian and a few other players with migrant backgrounds. Without their manager from Bosnia and Herzegovina they probably wouldn't even have qualified for the World Cup, let alone made it to the last sixteen. These teams are proof of functioning integration and help to dispel prejudices.”

Magyar Idők (HU) /

Team of migrants not a sign of integration

The fact that many of the players on the French national team have a migrant background doesn't mean we can talk of successful integration, the national-conservative daily Magyar Idők puts forward:

“The 'We are fighting for a country' propaganda may have borne fruit with the eleven players on the French team, and at least in that respect their integration has been successful. But in the suburbs unemployed Algerians are still playing with fire. ... To deduce from a football victory that integration is working is self-deception. It was enough to observe how the masses celebrating the World Cup victory on the streets, most of them immigrants, turned over cars and threw stones at the police to realize this. It wouldn't do them any harm if they were taught how to sing La Marseillaise or at least - like the football players - given a ball.”

Standart (BG) /

Today's migrants are tomorrow's champions

The World Cup is food for thought regarding Europe's refugee policy, Standart points out:

“While Europe's politicians are racking their brains over how to stop the refugees or get rid of them France has become the football world champion with 17 players whose roots are far away from the Old Continent. It turns out that not only are the new arrivals integrated but they can become the pride of the nation. ... The football phenomenon can reverse the growing hatred of refugees in Europe. ... Now everyone is railing against Angela Merkel because she let a million refugees into Germany. But what will the Germans say when in 25 years' time footballers from Syrian families bring the World Cup title home for Germany?”

The Guardian (GB) /

Macron must not forget the suburbs

Only if France's president changes the focus of his policies will the French team's World Cup victory unite the country, The Guardian comments:

“This national win could only be a catalyst for change if Macron decides to act on it. As it stands, the French president is incredibly unpopular with young people, despite trying to present himself as a youthful candidate for change. ... Within hours of the victory, the cracks were beginning to show. Police clashed with revellers and suspended public transport to the suburbs, preventing many young people from joining in the celebration. If Macron really wants to claim this win, he has to invest in these communities.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

20 years of disillusionment

Not even the World Cup victory will be able to unite France, Rzeczpospolita believes:

“The 20 years between the first and second World Cup titles are a time of lost hope for the French. Back when Aimé Jacquet triumphed, France was different to how it is today, after Didier Deschamps' victory. Once again the country is rejoicing but few expect this victory to change the country. After 1998, it was hoped that the 'black-blanc-beur' (black, white and North African) France would be cemented together by football. But as things turned out, instead of a united France an era of terrorism began.”