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Argentina, France: Between Football and Colonialism

ARCHIVES – DIEGO MARADONA, World Cup, Mexico 1986

Argentina won. After a horrific, tense-filled final no one thought it would be ending, the controversial Qatari World Cup edition of 2022 now has an official winner. Argentina had not reached the finals in eight years. Winning was, thus not an option, especially when the last star they had dated back to 1986. Once again, as usual, the issues of racism, colonialism and discrimination were highlighted as soon as Argentina reached the finals. The absence of black players was, again, intriguing to the eyes of many Westerners. Indeed, most Western countries now have a few black players, while others, like France represent its majority.

If football is a sport, one truth remains. It is also a reflection of politics and history, as each team represents the heritage of their specific nation. In that sense, the good and bad heritages of one said nation will reflect through the behavior of the supporters and their leaders, who are tied to politics and politicians, especially when millions are at stake.

Black French Football Players: On The False Idea of Progress

The French football team

The victory of Argentina was met with heavy criticism. It was, to the eyes of many other members of the African diaspora in the West, shocking not to see any black player at all. This lack of blackness angered many black Westerners who considered this absence as a sign of racism from the team players, but also from the leaders of the federation. This argument was deemed valid enough to encourage a large group of fans to rather support France out of political and ethnic solidarity.

For many non-French black Westerners, the heavy presence of black individuals in the French team signifies that the French authorities are much more advanced and less racist than the other nations. To their eyes, if the Black players are integrated and were given money to participate, this means that they are valued and not exploited. It is not rare to hear individuals claim “France is racist, but not as much as the others because they have black players there”.

This black presence in the French football team is nothing less than a strategy based on a lack of opportunities for the rulers. The leaders of the federation rule over millions of money and want to make profit at any cost. If they had the chance, they’d replace the three third of their black players with pure white French. But the latter are not as endurant, prolific, physically strong in terms of metabolism, than the black ones.

Two years ago, in a video published on his personal account, former French football player Patrice Evra exposed racism in their group. He revealed he saw and read racist letters written by angry supporters after their loss, calling the players “monkeys” and inviting their coach, Didier Deschamp, to “go back to Africa with his guys”. Evra also pointed out how their federation, in times of official ceremonies, placed the white football players next to French presidents for the photoshoots and filming sessions, to give a more respectable image.

Patrice Evra
Archive from the French INA society. Here, white French supporters have an issue with the non-white origins of their football players in 1998. Note that this generation of players was STILL white in majority.

The black presence in the French football team has been a problem for a part of the political scene. If the far-right was obviously the first to express such racist ideas, the left and right did not hide their feelings either. For them, the French team was becoming too colorful, going as far as qualifying the players as “foreigners”, when the latter were born, raised in the same French society. (for the most part, in its lowest spheres).

Just like in any other sport, the black players who win are recognised, embraced as fully French, but when they lose, this suspended Frenchness, thus recognition, is taken away from them. It is also interesting to notice that the players often come from poor social backgrounds in France.

In that sense, these young men were raised with the wrong idea that the only way to succeed, as a black person in France, was to either make it as a football player or by possessing millions of euros. Since they came from poor backgrounds, sport remained the only door of escapism. Profiles similar to Liliam Thuram’s, or black French men who think and have a consciousness regarding history and its legacy, are a rare thing. The French black players are given crumbs and white women to seal their social elevation. But besides sport, they surely lack the consciousness which comes along history.

The federation chose them poor, specifically to control them better, so that all their energy could be placed in sport. And only that. These black French players are not chosen out of love at all, but are objectified, elevated for their physical strength. Yet, the head of it all remains always white, French and want to be so.

Noel Le Graët, President of the French Federation of Football. Though the players are all black, the leaders are always white.

In that sense, those who attack Argentina because of their white players fail to understand that the French football system is as racist, separatist, colonial and brutal as that of the history of Argentina.

Also, African countries, or former colonies of France, are solicited for corruption and to allow the French to achieve and obtain what they want in terms of political advancement there. Once again, European agents take advantage of the lack of African organization in big events, by exploiting the bodies of African players who will play under European leagues. The stupidity of the African elite, prevents any African player from having a chance to evolve there, in Africa.

Argentinian supporters in Ayiti. Despite it all, the Western media never like to focus on this fraction of football fans, when the African diaspora gave them the best players ever

And in that sense, the importance that European clubs can have upon other black Africans in Africa or in the diaspora remains hidden. Especially when Africans who also contribute greatly to the expansion of football in Europe, through the numerous black and mixed-race players, are not integrated within the spectrum of football tradition.

The Whiteness of Argentinian Players

Argentinian supporters, photographer unknown

Football is a reflection of history. Football is politics. In that sense, the constant questions asked regarding the whiteness of Argentine players makes sense. Westerners are not supposed to know everything about other people’s history. But when it comes to Latin America and football, one keeps in mind the teams of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador or Mexico whose players are either African, Afro-Indigenous, Indigenous or Euro-Indigenous. In that sense, they are the reflection of the population they represent.

When it comes to Argentina, the contrast is much more violent, because of the brutal and anti-black policies which were supported in the last two centuries.

The whiteness of Argentina did not happen by chance. It was the consequence of decades of policies whose aim was to erase the black populations by any means necessary.

Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay are the whitest places in Latinized America

Argentina, like the US and the rest of Latin American nations, was built upon genocide. Yet, some countries were much more impacted by this genocide than others, especially when it comes to the process of whitewashing: Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and the south of Brazil are the whitest places in the Latin world, thus a sad consequence of that horrific past.

By the 16th century, the first Spanish colonizers settled in Argentina and the first waves of massacres against the Natives began. The remants were either forced to assimilate to European culture, but a great part of them were forcibly submitted to racial mixing with white colonizers to whitewash the Argentine race.

Afro-Argentine. Date unknown

Though this politicy of erasure was fruitful against the Natives, the same can be said for the black population. Falsely presented as a white nation, Buenos Aires played, such as Sevilla (Spain), Lisbon (Portugal), Le Havre and Nantes (France) a crucial role in the activity of slavery. This reality was such, that by the mid- 19th century, more than fifty per cent of the population of Buenos Aires was black and mixed-race.

Felipa Larrea, considered the last surviving African from the colonial period in Argentina

After the end of slavery, industrialization became the new way to progress and advancement for the Europeans and Euro descendants. In the Latin world, progress could not come along with Africanness and Indigenous identity, but rather with the amplification of whiteness. Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay thus saw their leaders push for the colonial policy of whitewashing.

Racist Sarmiento

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, in the mid 19th century, was the former Argentine president who began to amplify this politicy of whitewashing. The black Argentines were massively sent to the war against Paraguay from 1864 to 1870. Then, they were also massively submitted to politics of racial mixing to whitewash them even more. These policies were so efficient, that the Afro Argentinian community does not surpass the 1%.

As the black population diminished, new colonizers arrived through the prism of immigration. Millions of Italians fleeing from the downfall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans or Polish men and women were encouraged to go to Argentina. Though their descendants claim not to be responsible for the initial waves of genocide from the 16th century, they still contributed to colonialism by migrating there, since their presence was needed to whitewash the space from both the Indigenous and African origins.

French documentary on Afro Argentinians

However, though they were made to disappear, the ghost of the Afro-Argentine community shaped the culture and heritage in Argentine. Indeed, one of their creations became the symbol of this nation.

For thirty years, white Argentine researchers have written extensively about the orchestrated erasure of the black presence in Argentina, by highlighting the African roots of Tango. Though presented as a European art form, the researches proved through their extensive works that the Kongo slaves were responsible for the creation of the dance. The word Tango is not even Spanish in origins, but rather Kikongo.

Semba, a typical dance from Angola (ancient Kongo empire) which was practised by the many deported black Kongo who were sent to Argentina. The tambourines, and percussions were replaced by the violin, the piano and the accordion to fit in a whitewashed version of the style. For centuries, individuals wrongly thought that Tango was essentially European, when it was always black Kongo African.
Other Semba dancers

The enslaved Kongo Africans brought to Argentine practised a dance now known as Semba in Angola. Danced as a couple, the original dancers were to perform on African percussions and rhythms. Yet, the European Argentinian colonizers rather stole their movements but replaced the African beat with a slower rhythm of accordion, violin and the piano, to make it more elitist, white and thus, refined.

The history of Argentine was thus based upon genocide, erasure and whitewashing, thus policies which proved to be more efficient for the colonizers who successfully whitewashed the places they colonized.

Conference on the African origins of Tango

The Constant Inner Battle: Blackness and Europeanness

During each football competition, the question of race and identity always comes back among the circles of the diaspora. Interestingly enough, though many Western black Europeans look up to the black Americans as the ideal image of salvation, they fail to realize one thing. If the Black Americans are still fighting for their rights, they are American, support America and any American team, and so, even if their ancestors were enslaved, attacked, burned alive, segregated and poisoned by food and water, as of recently.

However, black European trolls love to nurture schizophrenia, inner anger and doubt by judging those who want to support their favorite team. A black French of African roots will be quick to judge a black Portuguese who supports Portugal by reminding them about the brutal colonial past of Portugal. In that sense, one plays with the pressure of a past no one in the common world has any control over. The black French-African support will thus consider himself to be superior to the black Portuguese and black Spaniard, since he wrongly believes that the massive inclusion of black players in his team is a symbol of a successful integration in sport.

In that same vein, hating on Messi should be the solution to the two centuries of orchestrated erasure of the black population in Argentina.

Once again, in the well-known toxicity of black politics, Blacks themselves enjoy nurturing the negative memories of the past during a time of game and celebration. Even in sport, things have to remain dark. Yet, those who are quick to denounce the racist past of the country they live in, they would never dare to leave the said oppressive country, for fear of losing their little privileges and their access to massive consumerism.

The black diaspora is thus submitted to a constant battle of ideologies between the desire to support the country they live in and the horrible colonial past, reminiscing of the abuse of the Whites towards the Africans. In that sense, a black Belgian born, raised in Belgium for more than sixty years will be condemned by other black Belgians for supporting a nation (HIS nation) whose officials cut off Congolese people’s hands.

This constant abuse does not help at all to find a solution, but rather blocks any individual from wanting to breathe, and just enjoy a good time with their comrades.

The racist comments which can be heard at time, also highlight the issue of not being at home. The black French players are considered “strangers” to the eyes of the far-right, when the latter were nothing less but the products of the French society they grew up in. And even to the eyes of the inhabitants of their country of origins, these Black French are French and only French.

So, football is a place where conflicted black Europeans want to prove their pan-Africanist views and black authenticity by blocking other black supporters from loving the nation they were born in, grew up in, and simply come from, as a way to prove, who is the best, and the most pro-black.

[1] PFEIFFENBERGER, Sylvia, “The blackness of tango”, Indy Week, May 10th, 2006

[2] Karush, Matthew B. “BLACKNESS IN ARGENTINA: JAZZ, TANGO AND RACE BEFORE PERÓN.” Past & Present, no. 216, 2012, pp. 215–45. JSTOR,

[3] Cottrol, Robert J. “Beyond Invisibility: Afro-Argentines in Their Nation’s Culture and Memory.” Latin American Research Review, vol. 42, no. 1, 2007, pp. 139–56.

[4] Andrews, George Reid. “Race versus Class Association: The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires, 1850-1900.” Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, 1979, pp. 19–39.


[6] Zimmermann, Eduardo A. “Racial Ideas and Social Reform: Argentina, 1890-1916.” The Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 72, no. 1, 1992, pp. 23–46.

[7] VILADRICH, ANAHÍ. “The Tango’s Social History in a White-Imagined Argentina.” More Than Two to Tango: Argentine Tango Immigrants in New York City, University of Arizona Press, 2013, pp. 25–45. 

[8] Seyler, Elizabeth M. “Revealing the African Roots of Argentine Tango.” Dance Chronicle, vol. 31, no. 1, 2008, pp. 104–12. 

[9] Collier, Simon. “The Popular Roots of the Argentine Tango.” History Workshop, no. 34, 1992, pp. 92–100. 

[10] Karush, Matthew B. “BLACKNESS IN ARGENTINA: JAZZ, TANGO AND RACE BEFORE PERÓN.” Past & Present, no. 216, 2012, pp. 215–45.

[11] Baim, Jo. “The Origins of the Tango.” In Tango: Creation of a Cultural Icon, 13–48. Indiana University Press, 2007. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt2005v61.5.

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