The French team reached the final of the World Cup for the second time in a row. In all these times, it has done so with the distinction of fielding more players from the African continent than any other team. How did France get so many African players?
The rules of the World Football Association, FIFA, allow each player to play for the national team of his choice based on the player’s relationship with the country he wants to play for or because of his choice. Among them are the fact that he was born in that country, where his parents are from, where he grew up, the documents that make him a citizen, or the fact that he is married to a local citizen.
At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, only four teams fielded 100% of their national players. These include Argentina, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Brazil.
At least seven of the 11 players who started in France’s World Cup win against Croatia in 2018 were of African descent despite being French nationals.
There is a big reason why Africans choose to play in France, it is not a recent phenomenon but it started after the Second World War in 1945.
By the time the war was over, France was also heavily affected. This country started looking for workers to renovate it and bring it back to life.
Among the focus, countries are in the East of the World but especially in its South because there were countries that were colonized in those years, but had not yet gained independence.
North and West African countries provided the largest number of workers in these jobs, between 1940 and 1950. In all these years, France was the country that brought more Africans than any other country on the European continent.
By 1960, France had taken in 2.7 million foreigners. It was followed by Germany with 2.3 million. It was a large number for a country that had an area of 551,695 thousand square kilometers.
Soon, as the country’s economy and population boomed in the 1960s and 1970s, jobs became scarce in France. This is because other Africans continued to go there to meet their relatives.
As the number of people living in cities increased, the newcomers who came to this country lived in the suburbs of the major cities in France at that time, including Marseille, Lyon, and Paris.
At that time, France was left with a problem only in sports, especially in football. This was evident when between 1960 and 1974, France missed the ticket to the World Cup three times and the ticket to the European Games three times.
The French Football Federation immediately shifted its efforts to build a national team. There was nowhere else to go except in promoting the talents of the young people, placing them in the various institutions that were established at that time.
In 1972, the French Football Academy in Vichy City opened for the first time, and just four years later the Association was working with major clubs to recruit players and help train these children.
Young African children who found work to be boring, sent their children to throw away the opportunity to study football in this school which was the answer.
The school was moved in 1988, from its current location to the South of Paris near the forest, for training purposes, known as Clairefontaine. This is why this factory in the creation of players is called “Clairefontaine”.
This institution took every child who had the talent to play football without any care and from all over the country. This makes it the number-one football academy in the world.
The production of this center appeared in 1998. In this year, France won the World Cup and hosted it, with the best players including young and old.
Among those players are many from the African continent who also played a major role in the journey. They are Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram, Bernard Lama and others.
This trophy increased the fear and intensity of the team “Les Bleus” ignoring other interests, and starting the process of winning trophies including the World Cup. He did this again in 2018, only the number of foreigners was much higher than in 1998.
Of those foreigners, 12 out of the 23 players France had brought were from Africa. Those players are Kylian Mbappé, Samuel Umtiti, Adil Rami, Benjamin Mendy, Djibril Sidibé, Presnel Kimpembe, Steve Mandanda, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kanté, Ousmane Dembélé and Nabil Fekir.
This move to use more Africans in French football is one of the reasons they once again reached the final of the World Cup in Qatar.
The French team has three players from the Democratic Republic of Congo including Steve Mandanda, Axel Disasi, and Randal Kolo Muani.
Cameroon also has three players including William Saliba, Aurélien Tchouameni, and Kylian Mbappé. Mali has two of them, Ibrahima Konaté and Ousmane Dembélé.
Other African teams have one player each: Youssouf Fofana from Côte d’Ivoire, Jules Koundé from Benin, Dayot Upamecano from Guinea Bissau, Eduardo Camavinga from Angola, Mattéo Guendouzi from Morocco and Kingsley Coman from Guinea.
Les Bleus also have non-African players. Among them are three Spaniards Hugo Lloris, Lucas Hernandez, and Théo Hernandez.
Other non-nationals are Antoine Griezmann from Portugal, Alphonse Areola from the Philippines, and Raphaël Varane from Martinique.
Only four players who play for France have full experience with this country. They are Benjamin Pavard, Adrien Rabiot, Jordan Veretout and Olivier Giroud.
France will play their final match of the 2022 World Cup against Argentina on December 18, 2022. It will be played at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.