The Euro 2012 soccer championship matches the 16 best national soccer teams in Europe. The event is held every four years, and since teams must qualify, it is not always the same 16 squads. The European championships are the second most important international soccer tournament after the World Cup since, outside of Europe, only Argentina and Brazil are consistently at the level of the best European teams. All the matches are being shown live on ESPN in the US, and a large audience is tuning in from around the world. The winner of Euro 2012 will probably be considered the favorite to win the 2014 World Cup.
But Euro 2012 is also interesting from a racial point of view, since European soccer is turning whiter. From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, European squads were increasingly being filled with blacks. This was particularly true for France and the Netherlands, which were trending toward majority-black sides. France actually had a majority-black starting lineup for the last several years, and won its only World Cup in 1998 with a starting team of seven whites and four blacks.
Of the 16 teams in Euro 2012, seven sport all-white starting lineups: Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Spain and Ukraine. An additional four teams—the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, and Sweden—start 10 whites and one black. Italy may start an all-white side next game as their one black, Mario Balotelli, a full-blooded African adopted by Italian parents, played poorly in the opening game. His white replacement scored Italy’s only goal against Spain.
Portugal starts nine whites and two blacks from Brazil. They also have at least one black substitute who sees playing time in the second half. Germany starts eight whites, one Turk, one black, and one player who is half-German and half-Arab. The Turk and the Arab do not look much out of place and without seeing their names, most casual observers might assume the team starts 10 whites and one black.
Netherlands has whitened greatly in the past few years and this has payed dividends. The team made it to the finals of the World Cup in 2010, where it lost to Spain. The Dutch start seven whites, three blacks and one Berber Arab who looks very white. In their opening game they ended up with 10 whites and one black on the pitch after substitutions.
Two teams stand out in Euro 2012 for not looking very European. France started five whites, three Arabs, and three blacks for is opening-round game against England, which started five whites and six blacks. France has actually whitened a bit from their disastrous 2010 World Cup, in which it started seven and sometimes eight blacks. England’s white star player, Wayne Rooney, is injured but is expected to make a return during the tournament. That will leave the English side with a slight white majority of starters.
There was a total of 176 starters for the opening round games, of which 151 were white, 19 were black, and six were Arabs or Turks. And almost a third of the blacks were stacked on one team: England.
So why has European soccer whitened a bit over the past few years? Undoubtedly it has to do with who is winning international tournaments. The last two World Cup winners (Spain and Italy) were all-white. The last two European championship winners were also all-white (Spain and Greece). This compares to France, which packed its national teams with blacks and performed poorly in recent international tournaments. Many black players would not even sing the French national anthem during the opening ceremonies. Friction between French players and coaches reached a boiling point during the 2010 World Cup when black players walked out of a practice over disagreements with the white coach.
Immigration and changing demographics certainly have something to do with the fact that many European teams are no longer all-white or almost all-white, but blacks are overwhelmingly the non-whites who join these squads. Arabs, Asians, Turks, and other Muslim groups are the majority of new immigrants to Europe but they barely make a dent in soccer lineups.
Why is this? As I wrote elsewhere during the 2010 World Cup:
A proper HBD response might be that blacks are better athletes than whites, and much better athletes than Arabs, Asians, and mestizos. But that is certainly not reflected in the World Cup results. All-black African sides are losers who have never come close to contending for the World Cup, though soccer is universally played throughout the Dark Continent. Some might say they need better training and coaching, but all-black African teams are currently coached by whites. Even the Asian sides usually outplay the all-black nations. Though they enjoy home field advantage, the record of the all-black teams at this writing is a pathetic one win, four losses, and two draws. It is possible that none will advance to the next round of 16.
Demographics are certainly changing Europe, and that is reflected in the national soccer teams. However, the belief that blacks are simply better athletes has much more to do with the composition of teams like England and—though more so in the past—France.
If England wins it may usher in a return to heavily black “European” national teams, but yet another victory by an all-white team like Spain or Russia—or even an almost-all-white team like Italy—will help keep the European in future European soccer tournaments.