Cute kids recreating World Cup final causes online race debate. Must it always end like this?

Cute kids recreating World Cup final causes online race debate. Must it always end like this?
A video of young footballers recreating the World Cup final between France and Croatia kicked off a vicious race debate online. Does everything in the era of online comments and identity politics have to be like this?

RT is winding down its World Cup coverage after a successful tournament in Russia, and produced the video recreation as part of that. Simply a bit of fun, involving no politics or ideology. The producers, perhaps naively, thought it was hard to go wrong when showing young kids enjoying themselves playing football.

The production was shot at Moscow’s Sapsan stadium using children from local football teams to play the part of the likes of France’s Kylian Mbappe and Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic. It is fair to say that there are not a huge amount of black kids in Moscow compared to other European cities, a consequence of history more than anything else, and that there are a significant number of black players in the French World Cup winning team.

Surely though this wouldn’t be a problem in a cute two minute video that had neither the time, resources, or inclination to worry about casting the players like it was a Hollywood biopic. Cute kids. Playing football. The end.

However, we live in an era of online comment sections and identity politics – a truly potent combination which can suck the fun and innocence out of anything. Below are a few of the milder comments that were left below the video on Youtube, where a debate on ‘whitewashing’ and ‘racism’ ensued. If you would like to see the full extent of the debate, please click on the Youtube video link included in this story.

The following comment likely speaks for the sane majority (although who knows these days?!).

Broadening out this issue leads to the question why does a video like this inevitably end up in a discussion of identity, or race or sexism? The insinuation is that the people who made it would have some kind of motive that would lead them to “whitewashing”.

In fact the truth is far more likely be that the people who are throwing accusations of racism are the actual ones who are struggling with the issue, not the person who doesn’t think twice about having a child represent Mbappe, regardless of skin colour.

There is no vague attempt to consider the context in which the video is made, that it was in Moscow where the black community is not large. No one is saying that there are no racial issues to contend with around the world, but sometimes, something just is what it is.

No one points out that it is highly likely that among the children taking part are Tatars and Ukrainians, and any other number of the diverse communities that make up Russia. Then again, they shouldn’t have to point that out, because ultimately these are just kids playing football in a video, for fun. Can’t it just be left like that?

By Simon Rite

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