England's World Cup Team Would Be Unrecognisable Without Immigration
Nearly half of the England squad were to born to migrant parents.
There are a few things that put the “Great” in Great Britain.
Diversity, tolerance, some very decent bands — and now it appears that England is quite good at football, too.
It's been an emotional journey. Even though it didn't actually come home (though we were assured by a psychic pig that it definitely was), it's been an experience that's reminded us who we are as a country — and London’s Migration Museum have shared a powerful reminder about where we're from too.
The Migration Museum, in partnership with Wonderhood Studios and Clear Channel, released an alternative starting lineup ahead of England’s opening World Cup fixture against Tunisia on June 18 — and even printed them out on huge billboards in London.
It removed any players that started that game who wouldn’t have been there without the impact of first- and second-generation immigrants — and just five players remained. Even the mighty Jordan Pickford might struggle in such a side, though you’d be a fool to bet against him.
The line-up for #England’s big #WorldCup game against Tunisia has been announced, but have you ever thought about what our team would look like without immigrants? #ThreeLions#ENGTUNpic.twitter.com/FSOAtvevoV— Migration Museum (@MigrationUK) June 18, 2018
The Migration Museum opened in London in April 2017, dedicated to sharing stories about how movement has shaped what Britain looks like today. It’s hosted exhibitions and workshops to champion immigration as a “powerful force for good,” and has been visited by over 170,000 people.
“The diverse nature of England’s World Cup team highlights the contribution of migrants in making us who we are today,” said Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum. “In fact, if you trace back the family histories of every member of tonight’s team, you would almost certainly find a migration story — whether of immigration, emigration, or both.”
“But migration has shaped far more than just tonight’s starting line-up,” she added. “That’s why we are creating an inspiring national museum that puts Britain’s important migration story at the forefront of our national consciousness — where it belongs.”
In the England squad, 48% of players were born to migrant parents — the most ethnically diverse team to ever represent the country at a World Cup, according to the Guardian.
And England’s impeccably garbed manager Gareth Southgate knows it.
“In England we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is,” he said on June 24. “Of course, first and foremost I will be judged on football results. But we have a chance to affect other things that are even bigger.”
Raheem Sterling — perhaps the player most criticised by the press and social media users — is the only England player born outside the country; he followed his mother to the UK after his father was killed in Jamaica when he was 2 years old.
But it’s not just the England side subscribed to the notion of global citizenship.
France narrowly beat Belgium on Tuesday night to secure the first spot in Sunday’s World Cup final. But 23 players — a whopping 50% of both teams — are descended from Africa, according to the Guardian. French teenage star Kylian Mbappé was born to an Algerian mother and a father from Cameroon, and in the wider squad 78% of France’s players emerged from migrant backgrounds.
Of course, it’s all rarely mentioned; unless it’s easily weaponised — especially in Belgium.
“When things were going well, I was reading newspaper articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker,” said striker Lukaku in an interview the Players’ Tribune on June 18. “When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.”
Almost 10% of all the players at the World Cup were born outside of the country they played for, the Guardian adds. Indeed, two players who started for Croatia against England were once refugees who grew up in the shadows of war. Both Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren were forced to flee their hometowns after the murder of close family — and now they’re set to play in the final of sport’s most resplendent spectacle.
Well-planned migration is an integral component to Global Goal 10 to reduce inequalities, one of 17 world-changing objectives called the Sustainable Development Goals led by the United Nations to end extreme poverty before 2030. But it’s impossible to keep migration safe unless the wider conversation stays responsible — and that must involve a reality check on the incredible success stories right in front of us.
And after 30 years of hurt, England has become that story.