How Marine Le Pen killed a rapper’s football anthem – POLITICO


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PARIS – Marine Le Pen scored an early goal against rap music in France.

In a controversy that engulfed sport and politics ahead of the European Football Championship, which begins next month, the far-right leader led a public offensive against a rapper whose song was chosen as the anthem of the France for the tournament.

Blowing what she called “insulting” and “scandalous” lyrics in a tweet, Le Pen and other right-wing figures criticized top-selling artist Youssoupha not on the hymn itself, but on earlier songs he had explicitly targeted her in. On Wednesday, the French Football Federation announced that it would drop Youssoupha’s song, titled “Write my name in blue” of its programming for the tournament.

“It is a retreat in the face of a controversy created by the National Assembly,” declared Nicolas Kssis-Martov, a left-wing journalist at the magazine So Foot. “Nothing is neutral in the France team and the context is unprecedented, with a revival of the right and the far right.”

The episode highlights how tense France’s cultural and political debate has become in the run-up to a presidential election next year, in which Le Pen is one of the main candidates against President Emmanuel Macron.

The French football team, made up mainly of players with an immigrant background, has long been considered a symbol of diversity and health. “Live together” – or the idea that different communities can happily live side by side.

But that symbolism has also done everything to do with the team’s potential political dynamite. In the case of the Euro 2020 anthem (it’s still officially called that after being delayed for a year because of the pandemic), it was Youssoupha’s 15-year-old lyrics in which he said that his “semen permeates that bitch * Marine Le Pen” which led to the far-right outcry and the song’s cancellation.

Explain the decision to the daily Le Parisien, the boss of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët, distanced himself from the choice, which was first used in a video clip revealing the players selected for the France team.

The song was never intended as an anthem for the team and was selected by “the young staff in the communications department,” he said.

Kssis-Martov said that explanation seemed unlikely. “I would be surprised if a senior federation official did not approve the song, especially because they would have paid Youssoupha,” he said, adding that the federation did not order more than one song before. tournament.

Campaign against the rapper

Le Pen’s offensive against Youssoupha comes as she accelerates her third presidential bid, polls putting her neck and neck with Macron.

The leader of the National Rally, who is also running in local elections next month, called on the football federation to tear up the song last week, tweeting that “the insulting and scandalous lyrics shock a number of French people”.

The allies then intervened, attacking the artist for what they said was a call to rape their leader. Youssoupha declined a request for comment, telling POLITICO he would not discuss the matter.

“It doesn’t matter what the anthem is about,” said Jean-Lin Lacapelle, Member of the National Assembly in the European Parliament. “This is what [Youssoupha] represents: he is a symbol of anti-France, of contempt for France. At a time when people are looking for values ​​and references, we need someone who loves France.

In an example of how Macron struggles to overlap messages from the left and the right in the run-up to the election, the government has given a mixed response.

“Youssoupha is a popular rapper who campaigns against racism in France, who has convictions and who speaks to young people,” said Minister of Sports Roxana Maracineanu. “This song promotes diversity. The diversity of our football team which comes together around a jersey, a French flag, it is magnificent and it corresponds to the values ​​of football.

But Gabriel Attal, government spokesman, refused to comment on the choice of song, while the young minister in charge of citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, condemned the insults against Le Pen.

Culture wars on the ground

The clash is a resurgence of a fierce debate over the national football team and what it says about French identity.

France’s World Cup victory in 1998 was marked as a success for diversity and a symbol of a modern France, with a black-white-arab [black-white-Arab] team comprising players from different backgrounds. No matter where you came from, you were French and you were proud. It was a model moment for French universalism, with class and origin differences transcended by victory and team spirit.

But France has struggled to regain that spirit since then.

“The perception of diversity within the national team is indexed to how France feels about itself,” Kssis-Martov said. “In 1998, France discovered the children of immigration through football and [then France midfielder] Zinedine Zidane embodied this positive feeling. But it changed as soon as there were problems.

In 2010, the relationship hit rock bottom when French players went on strike in South Africa following a clash with a coach. Many in France saw this incident as proof that the team was a collection of spoiled millionaires, who were no longer proud of their country.

According to Kssis-Martov, the managers of the France team have since closely controlled the image of the players and sought to quell controversy. But with the political debate in France dominated by the right and the questions of immigration and the fight against crime, the tensions around what the French football team represent are unlikely to disappear.

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