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Diversity, respect and a Cup

The French society has been diffident and pessimistic for a long time. The burst of happiness following the victory of the French football team over the very talented and daring Croatian one is thus most welcome by all. Last night was one of pride and joy for everyone, young and old, women and men, belonging to all social upbringings. All over the country, like in other countries on similar occasions, people have been celebrating in the streets and cafés a long awaited and obviously deserved success. It was a night long euphoria. On the Champs Elysées as well as in the remotest village of France, tears of joy were running and people hugged one another as if a war against misfortune had just been won. Pure joy, pure happyness. For some of those citizens, this victory is also of another kind. Unlike other sports like tennis, athletism or skying for instance, football is a broadly popular game. It is practiced from an early age just down the social housing of all French cities by boys (and sometimes girls now) who belong to underpriviledged backgrounds. Those youngsters don't have many entertaining activities. Some practice boxing. Some draw huge and sometimes magnificient grafitis on the cities walls, some participate to the inventive rap sung in the country; some spend hours, days and years being bored amongst their siblings. Football is by far the most popular sport in the working class suburbs. Working class is a rather unappropriate term though, since unemployment deprives many boys and girls of the hope of a regular job. Nevertheless, they belong to the people of modest origins, the poor and, in our time of neo-liberal frenzy, they have but a faint hope of bettering their condition. Football is both a dream and a solace. A victory in this major worldwide event is certainly an opportunity of gathering the multifaced French society that our president is not going to miss for his own benefit. But it also is a moment of recognition of the deprived, the unconsoled, the humble ones. As a matter of fact, like in the US, the UK, Russia or Germany, large parts of the non-working-working class is now of remote origins and this is visible on their faces. The French working class is a multicolored one, a patchwork of faces, habits and temperaments. It is not surprising that this specific category of French recognises its diversity and talents in the football TV screens of the World Cup. For all French, the 15 of July 2018 was/is an opportunity of pride and joy. For the people of modest backgroungs it is a little more: they rightly feel like being a mine for talents and good spirits. For the remaining stock of the population, those who have eyes to see and a heart to deliver respect, this is an inclusive moment, a time of exciting togetherness. Racism recedes for the time being and the old tradition of Fraternity threatened by the demographic movement of the refugees in Europe, joyfully revives and shows signs of vitality. Two signs amongst many others: the fundamentalists of all kinds didn't celebrate; and the Tunisian diaspora in Paris celebrated with both Tunisian and French flags.

Marc Hatzfeld

This article was published on page 2, in the 17 July 2018 issue of Ei Samay, the great daily Bengali newspaper of Kolkata

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Marc Hatzfeld, Sociologue des marges sociales
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