‘Foot and immigration, 100 ans d’histore commune’, as it is titled, tells the stories of France’s greatest footballers of migrant backgrounds and their struggles. The film also provides details of their contribution to the game and how football in France has changed through them.
The 90 min-long film also documents football’s unifying and inclusive values through three generations of players. These include Raymond Kopa who is of Polish descent and is France’s first Ballon d’Or, Michel Platini, of Italian descent and Euro 1984 champion, and Zinedine Zidane, of Algerian descent and 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner.
“I felt bad each time people told me ‘You, you’re not like the others’.
“What I am today I owe to my parents and myself. In 1998, we [the national team] were proud and embraced this mix and we all shared and went through many important things.” Zidane explained.
The documentary also tells stories of the player’s families, their arrival in France, and what it meant for them to see their sons play in the national team.
On his experience, UEFA President Michel Platini said: “My Italian grandparents arrived in France in the 20’s. What they gave to France commands respect.”
Celebration of multicultural France
Cantona, who is a son of immigrants from Italian and Spanish backgrounds, explained the reasons behind the making of the documentary, as a celebration of multicultural France.
“I thought it was important to talk about origins. Nowadays, we have all adopted a speech that seems to forget this. And, in my opinion, being brought up among different backgrounds is great. We enrich ourselves. France is like that.”
“Everyone brought their cultures and created a common, shared culture. I hope France will always remain like this”.
The documentary, which premiered on Sunday (16 November) on the French TV channel Canal +, comes days after Willy Sagnol’s comments on African players caused an outcry in the Hexagone, as the country is known.
On the subject, Cantona said: “Football is an amazing school of life. It is a popular sport. When the first flows of immigrants arrived, people started to play football together and everybody mixed. No one questioned this.
“Willy Sagnol has seven or eight players of colour in his team. The team’s captain [Lamine Sané] is black. I want to believe it was blunder, and I will take it as such.”