US-based South African comedian Trevor Noah has defended himself after being criticised by a French diplomat for saying “Africa won the World Cup”.
The Daily Show host made the comments on his satirical show a day after France beat Croatia to win football’s most coveted prize on Sunday.
More than half of the French squad can trace their heritage back to Africa.
The French ambassador to the US said the comedian was denying their “Frenchness” by calling them African.
“This, even in jest, legitimises the ideology which claims whiteness as the only definition of being French,” Gérard Araud said in a stern letter to Noah.
“They were educated in France, they learned to play soccer in France, and they are French citizens. They are proud of their country, France.”
The Daily Show posted a video of the South African comic reading out the letter on Wednesday (later tweeted by the French embassy in the US) – and going on to argue that the players’ African identity should be celebrated.
Noah said he understood where the ambassador was coming from and how his comment could be perceived as “joining the attack” with France’s far right.
But he said his statement should be put in context: “When I am saying, ‘They are African’, I am not saying it as a way to exclude them from their Frenchness, but using it as a way to include them in my Africanness.”
To deny that duality was something he “vehemently” disagreed with.