France’s City-Wide Celebration

BONDY, France — The cheers could be heard all the way from Calais to Marseille when the final second ticked past and France was the indisputable victor of the 2018 men’s soccer World Cup final on Sunday.

Cars honked, noisemakers went off and smoke bombs sent blue, red and white streams into the air. French flags appeared at windows, thrown over people’s shoulders and flying out of car windows, against the backdrop of an enormous one rippling from the Arc de Triomphe. People jumped onto car roofs, and crowds filled the Champs-Élysées.

But it was in low-income suburbs outside Paris with names like Bondy, Suresnes and Lagny-sur-Marne, places that many of the French team’s star players call home, that the elation seemed to be about more than winning the game.

“Once in a while, we are united, we are one country, one people,” said Linda Bourja, 41, who postponed her summer vacation in Brittany to watch the final in Bondy, a predominantly immigrant suburb outside Paris where the 19-year-old soccer superstar Kylian Mbappé grew up.

“That doesn’t happen too often, true — it should happen more, true,” she added. “But today is a day for all of us, for Mbappé, for Bondy, for France, wherever we’re from.”

Women in hijabs cheered alongside a priest; families with children in their arms and teenagers with the red, white and blue of the French flag painted on their cheeks jumped up and down. People broke into “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem; some hugged one another; and others climbed onto rooftops, waving flags.

On the Champs-Élysées, young men clambered onto bus stop shelters and kiosks as police officers in riot gear kept a watchful eye at intersections. Television crews trying to conduct an interview were mobbed by joyous fans who crowded into the shot. Fans walking from Place de la Concorde toward the Arc de Triomphe chanted, “We are the champions.”

Hours after the match ended, the crowds were still shoulder to shoulder, cheering and re-energized by the projection of each player’s name, face and hometown onto the Arc de Triomphe.


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