Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A fighter for France, and against racism, retires

Rob Hughes has this article in the IHT about Lilian Thuram, a French soccer player of African descent who represented his country many times.

He became a member of France's Council on Social Integration while still a top defender for Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona. He was the symbol of the European Union's 50th anniversary celebration, which used soccer's example of sport leading society against prejudice.

The European Commission's president, José Manuel Barroso, said then: "There is no better way to showcase the European Union at 50 than through Europe's favorite sport that unites Europeans in a unique way, through a passion we all share and a language we all speak."

In November 2005, after the French minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, now the president, described as scum the youngsters who burned cars and attacked the police outside Paris, Thuram spoke out: "If they are scum, then so am I."

The poor suburbs of Paris are predominantly populated by blacks and Arabs. "Most of the kids in the suburbs have no way out, and that is why they are violent," Thuram said. "I do not excuse violence, but I understand it."

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