Claiming France's World Cup triumph for Africa overlooks the continent's failings

One of the intriguing subplots to have emerged from the World Cup final on July 15 has been the African identity of France's winning squad and the continent's role in Les Bleus' success.

South African comedian Trevor Noah was forced to respond to criticism after he attributed France's triumph to Africa on his comedy news show, although his ill-conceived comments were rooted in the fact that 15 of France's team had African origins.

However, claiming France's win for Africa - in jest or otherwise - does the continent's football no favours, and must not mask what was a disastrous tournament for its five representatives.

For the first time since 1982 - when Africa only had three sides competing - the continent didn't have a single team in the knockout stages.

Senegal, as the first team ever eliminated from the tournament on fairplay, may have been unlucky, but there's no getting away from the fact that this was Africa's worst showing on the grandest stage of all.

Despite this, some are claiming the World Cup win for Africa. They bombard social media with memes, while ignoring obvious discrepancies.

France had several black players in their squad, so what?

Some were born abroad or have African origins, but Africa is a continent, the World Cup is for nations.

The majority of these players were nurtured and developed as footballers from an early age in France and by French football.

They all had choices, and none chose to play for African nations. They all chose to play for the country that developed and nurtured them - France. This was Les Bleus' triumph, fair and square.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered a balance; France won, but did so with black and African-origin players. At least he congratulated France on their win.

"The French team looked like an African team; in fact it was Africa who won," Maduro said, as per The Local. "France won thanks to African players or the sons of Africans."

Manchester City's World Cup-winning defender Benjamin Mendy responded to a tweet in which the World Cup winning squad's origins were indicated by various flags.

Mendy 'fixed' the problem.

Twenty years ago, France hosted and won their first World Cup.

The diversity of that team was celebrated; they were black and blue - an indictment of racism. Nobody claimed that Africa and not France had won the 1998 World Cup.

A few years ago, legendary coach Claude Le Roy discussed France's tournament successes with Empowersport, and was able to celebrate them as triumphs of diversity rather than claim them for Africa.

"I was dreaming at this time, because it was a multicoloured team, a rainbow team," he continued, "and I was naive, I believed that with so many black people in the team, a lot of things would change, but that only changed for a few days.

"There was a little bit more respect for [Lillian] Thuram, Thierry Henry, [Zinedine] Zidane and Marcel Desailly - for all the players - fortunately, but afterwards things came back to the way it was before, so it didn't change a lot."

Not once did the Africa-loving coach try to claim France's triumphs were African rather than French.

Instead, other key figures in African sport opted to use France's success in Russia, contrasted with Africa's failure, to illustrate where the continent is falling short as it aims to break it's own 'glass ceiling' and reach the semi finals.

Samuel Matete, perhaps Zambia's greatest athlete, and Ghana's African Cup of Nations winner 'Golden Boy' Abdul Razak make no effort to claim France's glory for the continent.

"Africa continue to perform badly at World Cups despite heavy investments in football, both infrastructure and funding," Matete told KweséESPN.

"We have had some decent attempts from countries like Ghana and Senegal, but we need to do more and we need to do it better," he added.

"Africa's not doing things right as we try to catch up to our brothers in Europe and rest of world."

For Razak, it's the infrastructure and governance back home - and the subsequent problems with the domestic game - that are limiting the progress and success of Africa's teams.

Despite immense progress over the last 15 years - Ghana became the third African team to reach the quarter finals in 2010 - the West African nation missed out on the 2018 tournament, and its domestic football is currently wracked with controversy.

The Ghana Football Association (GFA) was recently suspended by the Ghanaian government after corruption within the local game was exposed, leading to the resignation of GFA President Kwesi Nyantakyi.

"Our so-called administrators don't know anything about the game," Razak told KweséESPN. "There are too many [foreign-based players] in our teams. It is killing us.

"No white coach can win the World Cup for us, we must look at our players locally," he added. "They need to get us involved. Football is for footballers."

Since the World Cup, it has felt as though Africa's failure in Russia has almost been glossed over by trying to 'steal' the glory of France.

Yet French football 'earned' this victory by investing in its future, developing it and nurturing it.

Unless African football, at a local and national level, begins to follow suit, the continent's sides could endure another miserable World Cup showing in Qatar.

Don't expect the glass ceiling to be broken any time soon.