It has been two decades since France had successfully won the World Cup title and as the years have gone by there have been more and more players of African heritage have landed spots on the French national team. This is both a result of the years of migration from French-speaking African nations coupled with skilled players being recruited from the continent. This year we saw a fiery Senegalese team being knocked out long before they should have been mainly due to a new rule about yellow cards. However, we saw an essentially African team clenching the title in that sixteen of the twenty-three players on the French squad are immigrants from the African continent or first-generation Frenchmen. Moroccan, Algerian, Cameroonian, the list goes on and although the team played well and certainly earned the title many Africans wonder if the win is representative of a larger conversation of the West once again benefiting from the work of Africans.
Many of the best players in the world come from the African continent and are offered big checks to play elsewhere. Many African teams have been able to reach the World Cup but have historically been knocked out far earlier than their Western or Asian competitors. Some blame the lack of money for the best of their players, some blame a lack of organizational leadership and some blame the lack of exceptional coaching staffs. Regardless of the reasons, to see a team like France being able to cherry pick the best of the best, to leverage the lack of language barriers with their former colonies in Africa. To benefit from the waves of African migration in spite of the historical racism they are often met with and to assemble an exceptional team as a result is only more evidence of what the world already knew. That the opportunity to develop necessary infrastructures for African success was stolen by a handful of European nations and when the people took their independence back, they were still beholden to the interests of those who persecuted them in the first place. African immigration patterns and language demographics demonstrate that as well as the control of resources, stipulations that come with foreign aid in times of need and the influence on political decisions in African nations.
The term “neocolonialism” is one that has been used so much that people have become numb to the notion. In light of the recent Chinese business interests expanding on the African continent, some Western policy makers and political thinkers have been referencing their methods as neocolonialism. This is a misguided effort because by definition neocolonialism is a modernized extension of colonialism that existed prior to international sovereignty laws are now in place and China never had that stronghold on the African continent. Neocolonialism is the effort to leverage economic benefits, foreign aid, resources and trade agreements to cement the control of a previously colonial power. Considering the history of African colonization only a handful of nations can accurately be attributed with that title. We may disagree with Chinese methods or strategy but for the West to use that terminology to reference Chinese market expansion is to excuse their own work to capitalize on a history of abuse that began with the colonization of the motherland’s majority and the enslavement of her people.
The end result of rape and violence, dismemberment and others may not be perpetrated by the Europeans anymore, but the tactic of promoting a small number of Africans by showering them with wealth and status on the world stage at the expense of the majority of the people is one that is still used to this day. Not only in the athletes that we see but also in scholarships that are given out, homes that are purchased and elections that are influenced on behalf of those who are partial to European interests. This pitting against each other is a common tactic for power to be sustained and it has resulted in Africans carrying these violent acts out against each other. Thankfully, a new generation of Africans is emerging, forging a new path of a renewed sense of independence and an eye on the future in light of growing economies and strengthening democratic institutions. The new generation of migrants are not hiding in their communities when they arrive in the West and they feel no pressure to abandon their identities in order to gain success. They are proudly wearing their heritage on their chest like the emblem of a superhero and they are showing the West that their culture is alive, well and capable of creating things that the world had never gotten to see in full effect until now. One can only hope that over the next few World Cup tournaments, this new generation can clench a win for a team that wears the colors from one of the motherland’s dozens of beautiful and capable nations.