The debate on the conditions of selection and training of young people in the centers of the French Football Federation is revealing of a French malaise.

First, from a clandestine recording of an informal meeting, we thought racism was expressed, while the question debated was if it was reasonable to train in soccer schools young people whose parents were of foreign origin and having the choice themselves, at the age of majority, of their nationality, because many of them then chose to play for other national teams other than the team of France. And we are essentially discussing the question of whether it would be better to reserve the too rare available places in these youth centers only to players whose parents were already French.

Of course, this discussion is in itself shocking, but by talking only about that, we miss the essential which is why these young people decide to go to play in another national team, and take another passport. It is not mainly, as we argued too fast, because they are not selected in the France team, but because the representatives of their parents’ countries come to praise their merits. Surprisingly, we do not question (neither in internal discussions of the Federation nor in the debates that followed between those who said they were outraged by the comments that were made) whether we should in time make the necessary efforts to convince them to take a French passport. Let alone whether we should not also fetch the other talented binational, soccer players or others, in their countries. This non-debate shows that in France, for soccer players as for others, we do not instinctively think of the children of foreigners as an asset for the country’s future; and we do nothing to convince them to choose France, to help them achieve a successful integration. It is believed, consciously or unconsciously, that being French is such a privilege that France does not need to make any effort to keep those who might become one. No wonder then if they move away?

Then again, even if these soccer players would go and play in other national teams, often while remaining generally in French or European clubs, is it really bad for France? Is it not on the contrary useful for our country, to have trained the elite of other countries, Europe, Africa, Asia,  America, with whom we will have to trade tomorrow, have talks with, build alliances and build projects? Beyond soccer, we have every interest in receiving the most foreign students or children of foreigners, even if, then, because we do not know how to keep them, they return to their home country or that of their parents.

Finally, no one seems scandalized by the diffusion by the press of a clandestine recording of a private conversation, thus imposing a tyranny of transparency which in general only benefits dictatorships. If we continue to do so, not respecting the law and using private conversations as public information, no one will confide to anyone anymore. The country will not only be closed to foreigners, but also to itself.