Patrick Vieira celebrates his African identity while criticizing football's lack of diversity in management

Patrick Vieira celebrates his African identity while criticizing football’s lack of diversity in management


For many, the name Patrick Vieira brings to mind one of the most dominant midfielders in English Premier League history.

For others, he conjures up an image of a player at the heart of a French national team that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

For the younger generation, he is now one of the emerging modern managers emerging in the Premier League.

But Vieira wants to remind the world that he was born in Senegal and is proud to be African.

“It’s always good for people to know that I’m African and for people to remember that I was born in Africa,” Crystal Palace manager Darren Lewis told CNN after being honored at the awards. Best of Africa – a night that honors the continent’s athletes.

“It’s part of who I am today,” adds Vieira, who was born in the West African country to a Gabonese father and a Cape Verdean mother, where he lived until his family moved to France when he was eight years old.

Vieira played for one of the most diverse French teams in history – the blues were nicknamed Black Blanc Beur (White, Black and Arab) – and a team presented as a positive image of French diversity.

“France was going through a difficult period of racism and winning the World Cup showed the world, and showed the French people who couldn’t see it, that France was a multicultural country,” he said.

“The diversity of our France and the French national team was a success as well as the victory in the World Cup.”

Vieira, like many others, has been frustrated with how little change has taken place at the top level of football.

The former Arsenal captain is currently the only ethnic minority manager in the Premier League and the 10th black manager since the competition’s inception in 1992.

Earlier this year, the Szymanski Report, commissioned by the Black Footballers Partnership (BFP), revealed that only 14% of managers with the highest coaching qualifications in England are black, while 43% of players are black.

The report was even more critical at the leadership level, indicating that only 1.6% of leadership, management and ownership positions are held by black people.

“That doesn’t change,” reflects Vieira. “And the question is, do they really want to make these changes? This is the real question. And if they said yes, why are you waiting to do it because there are qualified people to take responsibility.

“The door is closed and the door is closed because of the color of the skin or because of your religion, or because you are a woman, that must change.”

The Premier League said its No Room For Racism initiative “sets out a series of commitments and targets to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and increase opportunity in the game”.

“To further support education and promote the importance of being an ally, current Premier League players are visiting schools to see how No Room For Racism educational resources are being used to inspire learning and encourage discussion. ”

The English Football Association told CNN its Football Leadership Diversity Code focuses on “increasing gender and ethnic diversity in leadership, team operations and coaching positions.” .

Football bodies across England, including all 20 Premier League clubs, have signed the code, according to the FA.

“Our teams – including the FA Board – are increasingly diverse, with 8% of our management team, 12% of all staff, 20% of our England men’s coaching staff and 4% of our female England coaching staff from Black, Asian, Mixed or other ethnic backgrounds,” the FA statement added.

In a statement sent to CNN, FIFA said: “The FIFA Council’s appointment of Fatma Samoura as FIFA’s first-ever black, female and African General Secretary at the 66th FIFA Congress, which is held in May 2016, was a historic decision.

“This follows groundbreaking changes to the FIFA Statutes, which require all confederations to elect at least one female member of the FIFA Council.

“FIFA now has a Council made up of 36 members of different nationalities, including six women, and the FIFA administration includes personalities from 100 nationalities and from various backgrounds, 41% of whom are women, which is in line with to our Equal Opportunity Recruitment Policy.”

Vieira won the World Cup with France in 1998. He is pictured with Togo's Adekanmi Olufade battling for the ball at the World Cup in 2006.

Despite his frustrations with how slowly things are changing, Vieira is aware that his presence on the touchline makes a difference.

“I want to give hope by showing people that you can be successful if you put your mind to it,” he said.

“But of course we need opportunities, and I hope more and more young African/black people will have the opportunity to do what they love to do.”


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