Friday, June 30, 2006

The Man Who Should Lead France

Lilian Thuram is possibly the best-spoken player in the sport of football, and he showed it again today in responding to Jean-Marie Le Pen's remark that France cannot "recognize itself" in the French national team, because 16 of its players are black.

The seminary-trained Thuram is not the only member of the team who has clashed with Le Pen. At the last world cup, Arsenal's Robert Pires famously suggested that the national team should simply refuse to play if Le Pen won that year's Presidential elections. But Thuram's remarks today are worth quoting in full:

"What can I say about Monsieur Le Pen? Clearly, he is unaware that there are Frenchmen who are black, Frenchmen who are white, Frenchmen who are brown. I think that reflects particularly badly on a man who has aspirations to be president of France but yet clearly doesn't know anything about French history or society."

"When we take to the field, we do so as Frenchmen. All of us. When people were celebrating our win, they were celebrating us as Frenchmen, not black men or white men. It doesn't matter if we're black or not, because we're French. I've just got one thing to say to Jean Marie Le Pen. The French team are all very, very proud to be French. If he's got a problem with us, that's down to him but we are proud to represent this country. So Vive la France, but the true France. Not the France that he wants."

Thuram will retire from international football at the end of the Tournament. It would be wonderful if he could finish his career, as in 1998, by sticking it to LePen in the best way possible, by winning the World Cup.

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