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France’s World Cup Win, Elixir For A Nation Hit By Terrorism

The victory of Les Bleus is a real boost for a nation that has been the repeated target of Islamist terror. Still it is not a magic solution to its many divisions.

Crowd on the Champs-Elysées celebrating the new World Champions on July 16
Crowd on the Champs-Elysées celebrating the new World Champions on July 16
Le Monde editors

-Editorial-

PARIS — As soon as the referee blew the final whistle, a wave of jubilation spread across all of France: endless flocks of fans, fraternal and joyful, celebrated the victory of Les Bleus, winners of the World Cup for the second time in history, defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

The celebration was all-encompassing, from north to south, from east to west. From Paris — with people gathering on the Champs-Elysées — to Marseille, from Lille, Nantes and Rennes to Strasbourg, Montpellier and all the way to the Reunion island, a French territory in the Indian Ocean, an entire people simply set their quarrels and divisions aside. This moment is all the more precious as it brings together, in all its diversity, a country traumatized by the succession of terror attacks committed on its soil since it began in January 2015 with the deadly shootings at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

France thus expressed its pride and gratitude towards players who came from afar; who, in return, dedicated their victory to "la République." At the start of this World Cup in Russia, the team coached by Didier Deschamps, were hardly the tournament favorite, with a lineup of young (with an average squad age of 26) and relatively inexperienced players. It took plenty of sweat, tears and even suffering for these players — most of whom came from the poorer towns on the outskirts of the Paris region, to make their sense of team spirit and solidarity triumph.

World Cup Champion France, Frozen In Time — © Ulrik Pedersen / ZUMA / OneShot

This moment of collective happiness is a scathing refutation of the rancid theorists of nationalist obsessions based on family names or skin color. For these Bleus, with multiple backgrounds, who draped themselves in French flags, belonging to the national community goes without saying.

And yet, at the same time, the country is not going to be transfigured by this second World Cup title. History has shown the ephemerality of these moments of national unity. The euphoria set off by the 1998 victory didn't stop far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen from reaching the second round of the presidential election in 2002. In 2005, the explosion of rioting in the outskirts of Paris showed the persistence of urban and social divisions. And the spirit that emerged from the nationwide rallies after the Charlie Hebdo attack itself quickly faded as well.

History has shown the ephemerality of these moments.

France won't be transformed by magic. Social inequalities won't just vanish, neither will mass unemployment. The quarrels and polemics that make up our daily lot will soon reappear. Sporting glory is momentary, and cannot suffice to restore social cohesion on its own. But for all that, France would be wrong to deny itself this passing pleasure. In a context of continuing political and social gloom, the national team's victory is likely to boost French morale. It is a sign of confidence in its youth, and such a healthy breath of optimism comes right on time.

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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