French system shapes success of Les Bleus’ African talent

In daily life, I’m a football dad living in Paris. Most weekends, I get up early and trek with my children to some freezing sports complex in the banlieues, the city’s suburbs.

The venue — which might be the Stade Karl Marx, in formerly communist-voting Villejuif — is typically fringed by dreary apartment blocks. Both our team and the opposition are almost always a mix of black, white and brown kids. The coaches, “éducateurs” who have followed courses and take themselves seriously, command from the touchline, while parents are corralled behind a fence and encouraged to keep quiet. But we do get to watch some excellent children’s football.

Half the French players likely to feature in Sunday’s World Cup final against Croatia come from poor banlieues of Paris or Lyon….

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