Politics is on France players’ minds ahead of last 16 match against Belgium at Euro 2024

PADERBORN, Germany (AP) — Ahead of France’s first knockout match at the European Championship, some of the players are turning their minds to politics back home.

Sunday sees the first of two rounds of National Assembly elections called by France President Emmanuel Macron in an attempt to counter success for his far-right opponents in European parliamentary elections on June 9.

That comes the day before France’s soccer team plays Belgium in the round of 16 at Euro 2024.

“I urge everyone to go and vote,” France and Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konaté said on Saturday at a news conference at the national team’s base camp in Paderborn, Germany. “I don’t want to tell people what to do but we must be together in all circumstances, we mustn’t be divided, that will only bring harm to everyone and to future generations.”

The snap elections for the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, could lead to the country’s first far-right government since the World War II Nazi occupation.

French opinion polls suggest the National Rally party could dominate the next parliament after the second round held July 7 and get the prime minister’s job. In that scenario, Centrist President Macron would retain the presidency until 2027 but in a sharply weakened role.

“Of course it worries me, what is happening worries me,” the 25-year-old Konaté said. “We cannot leave power to certain people who are intent on dividing people.

“Diversity has always been our strength. I come from an immigrant background. … Behind our skin color, there are hearts, that’s the most important thing.”

Several France players have spoken out from Germany about the political turmoil back home, including Kylian Mbappé, Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembélé.

Before the tournament, Mbappé also urged young people to vote.

“We know that it is a pivotal moment for French history, this is a never-before-seen event,” Mbappé said. “We are a generation that can make a difference, we can see that the extremes are knocking on the door of power and we have the opportunity to shape the future of our country.”

Konaté was born in Paris to parents from Mali and grew up in the French capital. He played for Sochaux and Leipzig, in Germany, before joining Liverpool in 2021 — making his France debut the following year.

“We must stop with prejudices and stereotypes,” Konaté said. “There is always a minority who will cause harm to the majority but when I see my parents, the jobs they had, garbage collector or cleaning lady, working at impossible hours, it saddens me that we do not highlight these kind of people who gave their health for France.

“We talk a lot about immigration and Islam, we have to stop and that saddens me because it’s never the people concerned who talk about these subjects.”


AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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