The economy is a case in point. In its review of French performance published last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) identified reasons for – if hardly exhilaration – some encouragement, as well as warning signs.

The report applauded France’s “robust recovery” from the impact of the pandemic, with consumption, investment, employment and workforce participation returning to pre-crisis levels faster than in most European countries.

The IMF also recognised France’s ability to resist the worst effects of the war. But it added: "While France is less directly exposed to the energy shock due to its reliance on nuclear energy and low dependence on Russian gas, the energy crisis is dampening the recovery by reducing consumers’ purchasing power, denting confidence and exacerbating supply-side difficulties.”

The report predicted further economic damage from the conflict with slower growth likely in 2023 along with weakened confidence and the dampening of household real incomes and consumption.


Not everything is gloom-laden. Messi and Mbappe go back to being teammates at Paris Saint-Germain. And France can be pleased that tourism bounced back in the first uninterrupted summer since before the pandemic, visitor numbers at or even above the figures for 2019. To those who know it intimately, France remains one of the best countries on Earth even if – as the President has pointed out – its inhabitants do not always realise it.

However, issues of internal security have continued to be highlighted in 2022. France has had to live with harrowing judicial sequels to the terrorist threat that has bedevilled the country for decades. Two major trials resulting from deadly atrocities reached conclusions this year.

Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor of the gang of attackers that inflicted carnage on Paris in November 2015, killing 130 people and injuring nearly 500 more, was given a whole-life jail term. Sentences of between two and 18 years’ imprisonment were passed on eight people convicted of offences linked to Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian who drove a lorry into crowds on the Nice seafront in 2016, killing 86, before he was shot dead by police.

France’s patchy record of attempting to assimilate Europe’s largest Muslim population is well documented. Each terrorist incident plays into the hands of the anti-immigration, often Islamophobic far right as evidenced by Ms Le Pen’s disturbingly strong minority support in the presidential election (more than 13 million votes, 41 per cent of the poll).

Not even the unifying qualities of the World Cup seem capable of healing the deep mistrust that exists between communities in France. After France beat Morocco in the semi-finals, violence erupted on the streets of Paris and other French cities, with the worst of the trouble blamed not on fans of Moroccan origin but on racist extreme right-wing elements. The threat to security these groups pose is not new; Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said this month that of intended terrorist attacks in France foiled since 2017, 39 were Islamic extremist and nine linked to the “ultra right”.


Football cannot stop sinister groups or individuals from wanting to cause bloodshed. But the multiracial make-up of France’s national team should be a matter of national pride, a useful tool in striving for more harmonious community relations in which people with roots in former French colonies of the Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa feel welcome in the European country where they were born or have made their homes.

To that end, Mr Macron’s display of emotions during and after the final carries important symbolism. It was both fitting and uplifting that among the closing images of the tournament, as 2022 draws to a close, he was shown embracing and consoling the procession of overwhelmingly black French players as they collected their runners-up medals.

The tougher challenge is to make the spirit of inclusiveness, evoked by the President’s warm gestures, endure more successfully than the vaunted black-blanc-beur (black/white/Arab) slogan that marked that earlier French World Cup squad’s victory in 1998.

Published: December 21, 2022, 14:00
Colin Randall

Colin Randall

Colin Randall is a former executive editor of The National and writes from France and Britain