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Diversity is soccer's new normal

Players of France's soccer team.
Players for France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Photo: Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

"At a time when populist politicians are trying to choke off or reroute migration flows, what matters to fans of the [all-European teams in the World Cup] semifinals — England, France, Belgium [eliminated] and Croatia — wasn't the players' ancestry but that they excelled," AP's Angela Charlton writes from Paris.

Why it matters: "Europe owes its sporting power ... to a long-running outreach into poor suburbs or neighborhoods, giving kids of all backgrounds access to coaches and fields and facilities — and teams more talent to choose from."

  • "When England faces Croatia in the ... semifinal match [at 2 p.m. ET today], it will field a team that coach Gareth Southgate says 'represents modern England.' With 11 of 23 players of African or Caribbean descent, it's the country's most diverse national team yet."
  • "France [in the final after yesterday's 1-0 victory over Belgium] has always been a melting pot, and today you can have a croissant for breakfast, West African maafe stew for lunch and couscous for dinner."
  • "That's why it's worth noting the Algerian-Cameroonian roots of France's 19-year-old breakout star Kylian Mbappe."
  • "It's a message that reaches all the way to Africa, where many are turning far-right racist comments about non-white players in Europe on their heads, and are waving the European teams' African connections as a banner of continental pride after their own teams were eliminated."

Be smart: "Soccer glory can only briefly apply a thin veneer over deep divisions within England, profoundly split by Brexit."