Sunday, July 09, 2006

Can Sport be a Diversity Trainer?

Can Sports bring a nation and perhaps even Europe together?

Reference: "French Soccer and the Future of Europe" by Zinn and Cohen

subtitle: the challenge of diversity in Europe, another vision?

If anyone is paying attention to soccer and the World Cup final this weekend
(pardon this old soccer coach who helped introduce it to Florida schools and
colleges almost 50 years ago), something quite amazing is happening in
France and Europe this week.

As you may know, France now has 6 million Muslims and the recent youth riots
were due in part to their lack of assimilation and job opportunity in
France. Even England with 3 million Muslims is worried after the London
bombing, and discovering that 1 out of a 100 is sympathetic to Muslim
extremism, counted by Winston S. Churchill on BBC last night as possibly
300,000. He predicted France would be a Muslim country in 20 years at
present rate. Europe already knows Muslim violence if you are keeping up,
not to the extent of 911, but terroristic assassinations of those regarded
as the enemy of the Koran.

What is happening in France, despite "proud racist" dismay is celebration
and joy in a multi-cultural soccer team. Here is a few quotes:

"While hundreds of thousands of people celebrated on the Champs-Elyses
following France's stunning turn-around, not everyone was joining the fun.
Proud racist and leader of the ultra-right wing National Front, Jean-Marie
Le Pen, could not resist defiling the moment. Le Pen decried France's
multi-ethnic team as unrepresentative of French society, saying that France
"cannot recognize itself in the national side," and "maybe the coach
exaggerated the proportion of players of color and should have been a bit
more careful."

"Le Pen and others of his ilk do not recognize themselves in a team whose
leader is of Algerian descent, Zinedine Zidane, and whose most feared
striker is black, Thierry Henry. Le Pen used to torture Algerians for the
French military in the 1950s and it turns his stomach that his team reflects
France's (and Europe's) colonial past, with players from Cameroon,
Guadalupe, Senegal, Congo, Algeria, and Benin among other countries.

For entire article see:

Concluding paragraph, worth reading:

"It is paradoxical that a victory by France, a country with as grisly a
colonial past as any European power, could be a cause for celebration by
immigrants and fighters for social justice. But as last year's "suburb"
riots and mass youth demonstrations have shown, there is a battle over what
it means to be French and by extension, the future of Europe. Anti-Arab and
Muslim sentiment is by no means monopolized by Le Pen and his cronies on the
far right. Whether or not they defeat Italy for the title, the astonishing
success of France's multi-ethnic team presents another vision for the future
of the continent.


Note: Dave Zirin is the author of "What's My name Fool?": Sports and
Resistance in the United States." Email to:
John Cox is an assistant History professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

The World Cup Finals of the Beautiful Game is scheduled for Sunday p.m.
between France and Italy. Prognosis: Italy looks stronger on paper, (and the
stingiest of all on defense) but the romance is with the shocking French who
have surprised most everyone. Some of the best players in the world are
playing against each other and their skill, both individual and teamwork, is


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