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Should France keep inviting African teams to Paris?
You can understand why the French rarely invite any of their former colonies over for so-called friendly internationals. On Tuesday night they again faced a barrage of abuse in their own backyard, with the vast majority of a sell-out crowd at Stade de France coming to support Tunisia against Les Bleus.
When Algeria played at the Stade de France in 2001, the game was eventually called off midway through the second half after Algerian supporters invaded the pitch. The match against Morocco last year earned notoriety after the jeering during the singing of La Marseillaise.
For the north Africans it remains a singular honour to be invited to play in France and Tunisia made little of securing a berth in the last phase of Africa’s World Cup qualifying last Saturday in the wake of all the excitement of the trip to Paris.
Of all their former colonies, France have only ever hosted Algeria, Cameroon, Morocco and Tunisia in the Stade de France. And it took decades before they sent an invitation. The Ivory Coast played a game in Montpellier but Senegal, who beat France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, still await an invitation, even though they are one of the few countries in Africa where French influence still pervades.
Mali, fast emerging as one of African football’s new powerhouses, had to do with a match against France’s B team last year.
Meanwhile, South Africa, who have only been back from apartheid-enforced isolation for some 16 years and whose tenuous ties to France come in the form of Huguenot migration four centuries ago, have had three internationals since 1997.
You wonder whether any other African countries will ever get the opportunity of playing at the Stade de France if it continues to be such an outlet for the frustrations of disaffected Franco-African youth. Still, the ticket sales are good.
Mark Gleeson covers African football for Reuters
PHOTO: Tunisian supporters cheer during their international friendly against France in Paris, October 14, 2008. REUTERS/Charles Platiau