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Obama celebrates diversity of French World Cup team

Former US President Barack Obama has commended the victorious French World Cup 2018 football team for its diversity, in a speech celebrating 100 years since the birth of late South African icon Nelson Mandela.

Mr Obama said the 2018 French football team - of which 19 out of 23 players are migrants or children of migrants - was an example of the diverse vision of society that Mr Mandela always fought for and believed in.

Mr Obama said: “It is a truth that lies at the heart of every world religion. That we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That we see ourselves in other people.

"That we can recognise common hopes and common dreams. And it is a truth that is incompatible with any form of discrimination based on race or religion or gender or sexual orientation.

“And it is a truth, that - by the way - when embraced, actually delivers practical benefits, since it ensures that a society can draw upon the talents and the energy and skill of all of its people.

“And if you doubt that, just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup. Because not all of those folks look like Gauls to me. But they’re French. They’re French!”

Mr Obama added: “Racial discrimination still exists.”

The former President was speaking at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, in front of 15,000 people, who met his words on the World Cup with cheers.

His comments come days after an American TV presenter also controversially pointed out the diversity of the French national team.

On his programme The Daily Show, Trevor Noah - who is black himself - showed a photo of the French team celebrating its World Cup victory, and said: “Congratulations to Africa on winning the 2018 Men’s World Cup!”

Of the 23 French players who went to Russia, just two were actually born in Africa: Samuel Umtiti in Cameroon, and Steve Mandanda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Both moved to France at the age of two.

Commentators around the world have noticed the French team’s diversity too: A recent article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK used the phrase “Liberté, egalité, Mbappé!” and asked: “After this World Cup victory, can France finally throw off racism?”

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