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French football tournaments celebrate diversity and fight racism

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The Associated Press

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Jade Le Deley And Jerome Pagmaia

Creteil, France (AP) —French amateur soccer tournament aimed at celebrating ethnic diversity is a talent It is attracting public attention by attracting scouts, sponsors and connecting young athletes from the growing low-income region with well-known athletes.

The National Neighborhoods Cup puts a positive spotlight on the migrant, worker-class areas where some politicians and critics flee as hotbeds of crime, riots and Islamic extremists. I am aiming.

Congolese heritage players defeated a team with Marian roots 5-4 on Saturday in the final round of the one-month tournament on the outskirts of Paris in Creteil. The final match was broadcast live on Prime Video.

The event was modeled after the recent African Cup of Nations in the suburbs and towns of all of France, where former immigrants with African backgrounds lived for years and generations. Born from a local tournament. However, this tournament was broader and international.

In addition to the former French colonial team in Africa, the participants included teams from European countries such as Portugal and Italy. Players from the former colonies of France's Asia also competed.

Launched in 2019, this tournament challenges France's ideal of a color-blind republic that does not count or identify people by race or ethnic background. The ideal was to provide equal opportunities by treating everyone as just French. In fact, people in places like Creteil experience discrimination and ethnic tensions every day.

"We are descendants of Afro. We are proud to claim our roots," said a French Senegalese player who grew up and played in the Creteil district with a harsh reputation. Mussa Sou said. Professionally in France and Turkey. "It's not because we have this heritage, but because we're trying to erase the identity of France."

The French team, like the national team that won the World Cup, is a country. It is made up of white, black, Arab and multi-ethnic players that reflect the diversity of.

"There are players with two or three nationalities. That's our strength and affluence," Sow told The Associated Press.

The sow directly witnessed growing tensions among young people divided into rival groups depending on which district of Creteil they came from, a celebration of their love for football and cultural heritage. I wanted to gather residents around me.

Mohammed Diame, former Senegal defender Sammy Traore and Senegal manager Ario Sisse, who have played 31 times in Senegal and played in Westham and Newcastle in the British Premier League. Participated. In February, Cisse became a national hero after leading Senegal to the long-awaited victory at the African Cup of Nations.

Traore and Diame both reached the top level of football and both grew up in Creteil. This provides young people with an example that success is also within reach.

"I started my first training here when I was seven. I considered the neighbors to be brothers," Diame told AP. "It feels like a pro tournament. We're in a group chat, we support each other and we're determined."

Since Sow started in 2019, the Amateur Cup has been I grew up. Colorful placards from multinational and local companies sponsoring the event were seen around the field. Young people and families pick up Merguez sandwiches (spicy sausages of North African origin that have long been popular in French soccer stadiums) and other snacks, and popular French songs played by DJs near the field. You can sing along with.

"I'm happy and proud to see people of all ages come together despite the uncertain climate of France," Sow said.

The tournament is strictly amateur, but the skill level between players was good. In the semi-finals last weekend, high-quality crossfield passes and clever dribbling cheered the crowd. Some scouts were on the sidelines and felt the opportunity to recruit talented young players.

The suburbs and satellite cities around the big cities known in French as "les banlieues" are fertile lands for European football talent. French academies, especially Lyon, Monaco, Nantes and Rennes, are ranked among the highest in Europe alongside Spain to train young players such as Real Madrid's great Karim Benzema and World Cup star Kirian Mbape. I am.

But these same areas have also been carried and hurt by a rough reputation.

At the end of May, some politicians accused young people in the suburbs of violence outside the Champions League final at Studd France in Sandoni, a suburb of Paris. They have been widely accused of vandalism, disruption of public security and fraud.

Sow emphasized that the tournament at Creteil is on track, despite many doubting the youth in the suburbs, where poverty and a minority population are concentrated in France. The defeat is gracefully accepted, and fans who rush to the field after the victory feel joy rather than violence.

The mayor of Creteil endorsed the event, and Clemence Gette of the District's newly elected parliamentarian, the Union of Left Parliament NUPES, came to the semi-finals. Gette called it a "unification" event that promotes the "beautiful value" that sports create.

Diame, who has played about 240 times in the Premier League, never allowed it to leave his roots.

"Anyone is welcome, whether you are black, white or Asian," he told AP. "Children, parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts. Everyone is here to enjoy a moment of pure joy."