Martinique, Guadeloupe: French Football Flop now Racial Controversy?

The French national football team has been through some rough times prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but the past three days have stirred up old issues around “Les Bleus“.

In the buildup to the FIFA World Cup, the honeymoon between the the French football team and French journalists came to an end; the divorce was officially announced when native Martinican player Nicolas Anelka allegedly insulted his coach in the locker room (information unveiled by French main sports newspaper, L'Equipe). Guadeloupean blogger B. World Connection reacted soon after in a post entitled “Nicolas Anelka, kicked out of the French football team” and discussed the player's future [Fr]:

Selon toute vraisemblance, Nicolas Anelka ne revétira plus jamais le maillot de l'équipe de France…A moins que Laurent Blanc arrive à le convaincre de revenir. Au niveau de l'opinion général des français ça sera plus dur.

Nicolas Anelka will most likely never wear the French team jersey ever again…Unless Laurent Blanc [the future coach] succeeds in convincing him to come back. However as far as the French public opinion is concerned, things are going to be more difficult.

Although most French West Indian bloggers condemned Anelka's attitude, they have also been discussing the various issues revolving around the incident.

Some comments to B. World Connection‘s post [Fr] blame the incident on coach Raymond Domenech:

En voyant ce déferlement médiatique à l'encontre d'ANELKA, je me suis dit c'est clair la chasse aux sorcières à commencé. La FFF et DOMENECK ont besoin d'un bouc émissaire pour sauver la face. Et il vont comme à l'habitude sacrifier un “nègre”.

Looking at the media surge against Anelka, I said to myself that the witch hunt had started. The French Football Federation and DOMENECK need a scapegoat to come out clean. And as usual, they will sacrifice a “negro”.

Blogger Bel Balawou weighs in on this analysis of the coach [Fr]:

Cette équipe de France est dirigée pas un entraineur incompétent, un homme ayant pratiquement rien réussi de lui-même…

This French team is coached by an inept manager, a man who has managed only little by himself…

A disturbing scenario followed this already disastrous situation: The French team went on strike just two days before their final round match against Bafana-Bafana. Their decision opened the door to a giant wave of criticism, some of it along seemingly racist lines.

The once-welcomed multicultural feature of “les Bleus” may now have become their worst flaw. Here is the title of Martinican Bondamanjak’s post in reaction to some comments about the team:

Les Antillais de l'Equipe de France sont déjà des Français entièrement à part…

The French West Indians of the French football team are already fully isolated…

Bondamanjak‘s conclusion came after a radio interview with controversial French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, who allegedly said [Fr]:

« Tout ça c'est la faute des racailles de banlieue, même ceux de l'équipe de France et qui n'aiment pas la France ».

“This is all to be blamed on the suburbs scum, even those of the French team who don't like France”.

From a sporting perspective, the failure of the French football team has reached social, cultural and even historical levels. For instance, the use of the term “suburbs scum” to descrbe some of the team's players left Bondamanjak bitter [Fr]:

Tant que les Antillais gagnent ils sont partie intégrante de la “nation arc en ciel”… il n'y a plus de couleurs (ni de culture) NOUS SOMMES TOUS BLEUS…
mais au premier nuage, les “gens des cités” (?) sont rétrogradés en seconde classe

As long as the French West Indians win, they are part of the “rainbow nation”…everyone is colorblind (and culture blind) WE ARE ALL “BLEUS”… but when the first cloud covers this blue sky, “people from the suburbs” (?) are sent back to their second-class [citizenship]”

Similarly, Bel Balawou says [Fr]:

Une équipe sportive, d'ailleurs pas que dans le football où se trouve en majorité des gens issus de la banlieue, des Noirs et des Arabes […] : Cela ne le fait pas !

A sport team, incidentally not only in football, where most of the players, Blacks and Arabs, come from the suburbs: […]: It's not right!

According to some bloggers, the reactions against specific players are because of either their background or their religion. Bondamanjak posts this portrait of Nicolas Anelka [Fr]:

Il ne mange pas de saucisson, ne boit pas de pinard. Il est noir, banlieusard et musulman. Il est donc le parfait bouc émissaire le doux mouton noir qui doit être sacrifié pour apaiser la pénible déception offerte par l'équipe de France de football au Mondial en Afrique du Sud.

He doesn't eat sausages, doesn't drink wine. He is black, from the suburbs and Muslim. Thus, he is the perfect scapegoat, the nice black sheep which has to be sacrificied in order to calm down the harsh disappointment caused by the French football team at the South Africa World Cup”.

B. World Connection also publishes a post which suggests that Anelka is a hero [Fr]:

Depuis le temps de l'esclavage, le Nègre n'a jamais cessé de maronner , d'échapper à ses fers, solides ou immatériels, en gagnant les bois, le zyiann…
Nicolas Anelka est de cette race-là…

Since the times of slavery, the Negro has never stopped marooning, escaping from their bondage either materially or spiritually and fleeing to the woods, “zyiann”….
Nicolas Anelka is one of them…

Obviously, the era of the “Black, Blanc, Beur” French society (which means Blacks, Whites and Arabs) inherited from the 1998 FIFA World Cup victory is over.

In conclusion, Gwadaboy, commenting onB. World Connection‘s post approaches the issue in a more balanced way [Fr]:

Et dire que Zidane a privé la France d'une 2eme coupe du monde avec son coup de boule. Lui il a eu droit aux honneurs de la nation, n'est ce pas monsieur Chirac? Ceci dit Anelka n'est pas excusable,quoi qu'il arrive on doit respecter son entraineur et ses COEQUIPIERS. Après le match on peut rêgler nos comptes mais pas à la mi-temps car “je” pénalise mes potes et mon équipe.

And to think that Zidane deprived France of a 2nd World Cup victory because of his headbutt. He got honors from his country, didn't he Mr Chirac? That being said, Anelka's words cannot be tolerated, in any case he owed his coach and CO-PLAYERS respect. His issues could have been settled after the game but not at half-time because He prejudiced his buddies and his team.

The thumbnail image used in this post, “Watching Mexico vs France”, is by Steve Rhodes, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit Steve Rhodes’ flickr photostream.


  • Alain Finkielkraut is losing it. Talking about “Ethnic and religious divisions within the French team”? What is this got to do with anything? I think Finkielkraut intervention is dishonest and morally irresponsible. If there is a problem in France, it is this suffocating grip that some so-called French intellectuals and political class have on the media and power in France, forging a politically motivated perception of the country that is racist and obsolete, and the French football team is the epitome of this state of affairs.
    Great post Fabienne.

  • Thanks Hisham.
    You’re so right about this. All this nasty situation is the perfect example of how obnoxious the relationships between politicians and the press can get.
    I’m sad for French football fans though, because they innocently thought that it was all about sports…

  • marcus

    What a load of crap. This has nothing to do with racism. Ribery is white and was very much a part of the gang of bullies who ostracized Gourcuff and organized the player’s strike. Of course Anelka’s not the only one to blame in all this, neither is Domenech – the ultimate responsibility lies with the FFF for failing to hire a good manager who could create a strong, cohesive atmosphere within the national team. Instead, player morale broke down and you had petty rivalries and anger at the manager overwhelm team spirit.

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