France’s prodigal striker is political football for far-right fans

 France’s prodigal striker is political football for far-right fans

When France met West Germany in Seville in the World Cup semi-final in 1982, many French fans regarded the Germans as more than just opponents: they were the descendants of wartime enemies. The flying kick by German keeper Toni Schumacher that hospitalised Frenchman Patrick Battiston and France’s agonising defeat on penalties evoked traumatic memories.

But when France meet Germany in Munich on Tuesday for their first match of Euro 2020, some French fans have chosen a different enemy: their own centre-forward, Karim Benzema.

France’s far-right has cast him as the personification of the banlieues, the mostly poor, immigrant suburbs where France stores its lowest castes. The banlieues have replaced Germany as the locus of mainstream French fears of violent attack. Once again, the French world champions have become the object of a Trump-style culture war centred on race.

In 2015, Benzema was expelled from the team after…

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