Friday 13 July 2018

Football and other forms of ‘progressive’ colonialism

Two European (and global) football powerhouses clashed recently in Sankt Petersburg.  France ultimately beat Belgium 1-0, through a goal scored in the 51st minute by Samuel Umtiti.  But many would argue that the star of the match was another French player, 20-years-old Kylian Mbappé.  Kylian was born in Paris, but both his parents hail from Africa – and both are talented sportsmen in their own right: his Algerian mother is a former handball player; his father originates from Cameroon and is a football coach.  Cameroon, by the way, is also the birth place of French goal-scorer Umtiti.  The country’s national squad, unfortunately, failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

Kylian Mbappé's mother was a talented handball player inconservative
Morocco, where women rarely get a chance to shine.

Most spectators would agree that among the best Belgian players were Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli – both born in Belgium to Moroccan parents.  A third Belgian player – Romelu Lukaku – is often cited as the national squad’s star player.  He was also born in Belgium, but to parents who had migrated from Zaire.  All three hail from ‘sportsy’ families; there’s clearly a strong component of ‘nature’ in the ‘nature + nurture’ mix that produced these outstanding footballers.
They are not the only ones.  Another Belgian player (Carrasco) has a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother; Vincent Kompany’s parents are Congolese; Kevin De Bruyne’s mother was born in Burundi…

On the French side, Lucas Hernández was born to a Spanish father; Antoine Griezmann – to a German father and a Portuguese mother.  Besides Umtiti and Mbappé, at least three other French players are of African descent: N'Golo Kanté’s parents from Mali; Paul Pogba’s from Guinea; and Blaise Matuidi’s from Angola and Congo.

These are interesting observations, especially at a time when migration to ‘the rich world’ (or indeed ‘the free world’ or ‘the safe world’) is becoming a top political issue in Europe and North America.
The footballers mentioned above are living proof that migration can be a success story – and that its effect on the host country can be very positive.  Indeed, without those talented players, it is doubtful that France and Belgium would be as strong as they are.

There is, however, a dark side to this success – one that pro-migration ideologues pretend not to see: France and Belgium’s gain is also the loss of countries like Morocco, Cameroon, Zaire, Congo, Mali, Angola and Burundi – all of them former European colonies.  And all of them able to field much poorer football national teams, compared to their former colonisers.  Only one of the list of African countries above – Morocco – qualified for the World Cup; and even Morocco was forced to pack their bags early, after two defeats and a draw in the groups stage.

No, this is not Samuel Umtiti; they are Cameroon's children -- those that
didn't make it to Europe.

It’s not just football players, of course: it’s doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs from former European colonies in Africa and Asia.  Having robbed those countries of their natural resources – for decades or even centuries – Europe now drain them of their most precious asset: their best, brightest, most talented people.  And no, not every one of them gets to be a football star or a university professor; most migrants end up eking out a living by doing the jobs Europeans can’t be bothered to do themselves – a ‘modern’ form of exploitation that borders on slavery.  If you don’t believe this – go out there and look who’s cleaning public toilets in Paris and Brussels.  Or indeed in London!

Who is cleaning your street?
It’s not just former colonies: it’s poorer countries, in general.  Romania, for instance, is one of those poor countries – the poorest in the European Union; maybe not quite as pauper as Cameroon and Zaire, but certainly poorer than France and Belgium.

Poverty destroys everything – but arguably nothing as much as healthcare.  There is a huge healthcare gap between France and Romania (let alone France and Cameroon!)  But healthcare is not an easy profession: training a doctor involves many years of study followed by even more years of hard graft leading to – at best – mediocre pay.

That’s in recent times in France, for instance, the medical profession has been attracting few ‘native’ Frenchmen and women.

So the French authorities invited foreign doctors (primarily Romanian) to apply for jobs in the French healthcare system.  And the applicants were so numerous, that the French could afford to be really choosey: they employed the best of the bunch.  Between 2008 and 2013, the number of foreign doctors working in France shot up by 43%.  According to the president of Romania’s College of Physicians, between 13,000 and 14,000 Romanian doctors work abroad, 4,000 of them in France.
Says Prof. Vasile Astarastoae, president of the Romanian College of Physicians:
"There is a major crisis in Romania when it comes to having enough doctors. In 2011 there were 21,400 doctors working in Romanian hospitals. On 1 November 2013 there were only 14,400."
By 2014, France had circa 330 practicing physicians per 100,000 inhabitants.  Romania had just 270; Poland had only 230.  According to an academic study
“The brain drain of Romanian doctors constitutes […] a dramatic loss for the national healthcare provision”
Life expectancy in France is currently 82 years – and significantly longer if you happen to be white.  In Romania, it’s just 75 years…

In Pakistan, there are just 81 physicians per 100,000 inhabitants; in India, just 73.  Yet many Pakistani and Indian doctors work in the British NHS – which takes pride in its enlightened, ‘progressive’ diversity.

This Romanian doctor looks happy: he practices in Northern France.  His
compatriots, however, were left with even poorer health care.

It requires many years and a lot of money to train a doctor.  And if that physician ends up working in oh-so excitingly multicultural London or Paris – rather than in native Bucharest (or Karachi or Mumbai or Kinshasa) – then that celebrated diversity comes at a heavy cost in ‘diverse’ life and limb.
And it’s not just about healthcare or economics.  By uprooting talented people away from their own language, customs, identity – the rich countries perpetrate something akin to cultural genocide.  There is nothing ‘progressive’ in that.

It is ‘progressive’, charitable and simply humane to give to the poor – not take away even the little they have; so why are we taking doctors away from Pakistan and Romania – rather than sending doctors and nurses there??

Whether in Europe or USA, Australia, Canada and Israel, ‘pro-migration’ ideologues feel inherently superior to those ‘populist’ cavemen who object to unrestricted migration.  As I sit writing this, a cohort of self-proclaimed idealists use ships bought with donors’ money to ‘rescue’ migrants.  They pick them up from just outside Libyan waters, lift them from the overcrowded and shabby boats provided by people-smugglers and drop them on the nearest European beach.  There is ‘instant gratification’ in that – at zero risk to the ‘idealists’.  But this free ferry service also causes more and more pauper Africans to take the risk – to pay more and more money to board increasingly overcrowded, ever-shabbier boats.  In so doing, the ‘idealists’ probably end up killing more people than they ever ‘save’ (more than 8,000 would-be migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in just two years!)  The idealists’ enthusiasm would be put to much better use persuading people not to take this route and instead help them improve their lives in-situ.  But that is much more difficult, onerous and risky.

Smuggler boats off the coast of Libya. Unseaworthy, yes; but then the hope
is not to reach Europe in this boat -- just to get a lift on a 'charity ferry'.

If your real purpose is to feel good about yourself for helping a few migrants land on a European beach, at no cost to yourself, then knock yourself out.  But if you truly care about people – rather than pandering to your own narcissism – then you will recognise that the problem of abject poverty isn’t solved by bringing a few people (those more proactive, who had the money to pay a people-smuggler and were lucky enough not to drown) from Zaire to Belgium, or from Romania to France.  That kind of selective ‘assistance’ just makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

You cannot air-lift all Zaire’s population to Belgium; but you can (although not easily and immediately, but eventually and with great difficulty) hand-lift, heart-lift and soul-lift Zairians out of their poverty in Zaire.  If you’re French and thirsty for justice – then draining Cameroon of talent really isn’t the way to go; shouldn’t you instead pit your own talents to help fix their country – the one your ancestors broke?


  1. Hi Noru,
    Three immediate thoughts. (1) In weighing up the pros and cons of migration and in particular its effects on third world countries, I’m surprised you say nothing about the money sent back home by the migrants. International footballers are, of course, a tiny minority of those migrants but some of them remit a small fortune. (2) It’s not only the third world that suffers the downside of international movements of labour. Not that long ago I recall a moral panic in the UK over an alleged ‘brain drain’. And Israel, of course, has always had one. (3) Cultural genocide is likewise something that can be seen to threaten wealthy nations. Just consider the very recent remarks of President Trump!

    1. Good point, Geoff. Still, I do not think that those remittances compensate for the brain-drain. I’m not so convinced that the footballers sent home such large amounts (at least in the big scheme of things), rather than spending it in their adoptive countries and bringing their families there. And as I said, most migrants from the third world end up working in low paid jobs. 2 & 3. I agree. But the developed countries are already developed. They have to keep up, but at least they don’t have to catch up! Culturally as well, they are more established and resilient.

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