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


For many, the name Patrick Vieira conjures up one of the greatest midfielders in English Premier League history.

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

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

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 remind me that I was born in Africa,” the Crystal Palace manager told CNN’s senior sports analyst Darren Lewis after being honored at Africa’s Best of awards – a night that honors the continent’s athletes.

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

Vieira played in one of the most diverse French teams in history – the blue ones They called it Black Blanc Beur (White, Black and Arab), and one group had a positive image of the diversity of France.

“France was going through a difficult period of racism and winning the World Cup showed the world, and the French 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 winning the World Cup.”

Vieira, like many others, has been frustrated by how little change has occurred at the highest levels of football.

The former Arsenal captain is the only manager from an ethnic minority 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), found that only 14% of top-level managers in England are black, despite 43% of players being black.

The report was even more critical at the executive level, saying that only 1.4% of executive, leadership and ownership positions are held by Blacks.

“It’s not changing,” reflected Vieira. “And the question is, do they really want to make those changes? This is the real question. And if they said yes, why did you wait to do it, because there are people who are qualified to take responsibility.

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

The Premier League did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, but the English Football Association said its Football Leadership Diversity Code aims to “increase gender and ethnic diversity in leadership, team operations and coaching positions”.

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

“Our teams, including the FA Committee, are increasingly diverse, with 8% of our leadership team, 12% of all staff, 20% of England Men’s coaches and 4% of England Women’s coaches coming from Black, Asian, mixed or other ethnic origins,” he added. Statements by the FA.

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

“This follows ground-breaking amendments to the FIFA Statutes, requiring all confederations to elect at least one female member to the FIFA Council.

“FIFA currently has a Board of 36 members from different nationalities, including six women, and FIFA’s administration includes people from 100 nationalities and diverse backgrounds, of whom 41% are women, which is in line with our equal opportunity recruitment policy.”

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

Despite his frustration at how slowly things are changing, Viera is aware that his touch presence is making a difference.

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

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