The French Team have returned home to rapturous applause and a fancy reception hosted by President Emmanuel Macron. Africans and African-led blogs have decided to encroach on their success by claiming that we too have a stake in their win. They have heralded the champions as sons of the soil. They have added a black map of Africa to the white part of the French flag. They have listed all the black players and their heritage. They have claimed that their win is our win. I have watched in awe as the madness unfolds and anyone partaking in it should be ashamed of themselves.
Much to the contrary, I considered it a sad day for Africa — also once known as the dark continent. What this day highlighted for me is how dark Africa still is and how we need to come to terms with this darkness by shedding light on the issues, so that we can shine like the bright stars that we truly are, without the need to exchange our birthrights and become citizens of another man’s land. The question that we should all be asking ourselves is why are these men who we so proudly claim, claiming another continent? Maybe if we had the right infrastructures in place, more African teams would have made it to the World Cup? Perhaps one of them could have brought the cup back to the motherland?
While you celebrate with France, think about the amount of talent and potential we as Africans have as a people, when we are in the right environments and given the right opportunities and support. It was a sad day because it demonstrated to me that somehow, our continent has failed in retaining its most talented. The brain drain is affecting every facet of society. This is not just about sports. Doctors are seeking better opportunities elsewhere. Teachers and lecturers are looking for where they will be paid their worth and on time too. Parents who can afford it are constantly in search of greener pastures for their children. So many gifted people have been forced into immigration by the continued and wilful degradation of our naturally resourced, beautiful and substantially blessed homelands.
So please forgive me if you do not see me celebrating with Thomas Lemar — whose Wikipedia page mentions nothing about him having Nigerian roots by the way, — or if you do not see me claiming any part of his success. What has Nigeria ever offered him anyway? I have no clue what struggles these men have all endured, how or why they or their parents or grandparents left their countries of origin, or what their individual paths to French citizenship has been. However, as an African, what I can say is that I am proud of each and every single one of them. I am elated that not only was Lemar afforded the right opportunity, but that he was able to use it to maximise his potential. Much unlike the young boys with possible premier league potential, who are relegated to kicking around balls made of plastic bags, sometimes in their flip-flops, in the slums of Ajegunle and Makoko.
If this sounds a little far-fetched, please be reminded that several Nigerian football stars including Samson Siasia, Taribo West, Emmanuel Amuneke, Ikpe Ekong, Brown Ideye and once highest paid African player Odion Ighalo, are all roses that grew up from the concretes of Ajegunle in Lagos. As I spare a thought for the many who are less fortunate and frustrated by poverty and lack of opportunity, looking for an escape from their trials and tribulations, delving into the latest Tramadol craze and a life of alcohol and crime, my hope is that more than anything else, Team France can serve as a source of inspiration, driving them to never give up on their dreams and to continue honing their skills until God-willing, it is their time to shine. Though to be fair, even as I say that, I feel a bit disingenuous because deep down in my heart I know that opportunity — not luck — is the greatest catalyst for a burgeoning dream to become a reality. I sigh. Deeply.
To the French I say, bien joué. Hopefully, this will be a unifying moment. A moment for you to realise that there is no place for prejudice and discrimination on a winning team. It is high time you face up to the racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and police brutality which often go hand in hand. If you can adorn your players with so much adulation and respect, you can spare a little compassion for an immigrant who is thousands of miles away from their comfort zone, desperately seeking a better life. On ne peut qu’espérer. Although it might be too late for them, their children may be on your winning team one day!
Welcome to SagaCity. A social commentary column by @wurathepenwarrior, for 9jaBreed.
sa|ga¦city | NOUN
the quality of being sagacious.
synonyms: wisdom · insight · intelligence · understanding · sense · sharpness · depth · erudition · learning · deep knowledge