Paris (AFP) – A French rapper chosen to produce the anthem for the national football team for this summer’s Euros has come under fire from far-right politicians over his lyrics.
Youssoupha, one of the biggest names in French hip hop, was unveiled by the national Football Federation on Wednesday as the voice of the track named “Write my name in blue”.
The Congolese-born singer, who frequently references his African roots and the problem of racism in his music, called far-right leader Marine Le Pen a “dog” in a 2006 song.
He was also sued for defamation by far-right media commentator Eric Zemmour after calling him an “idiot” and rapping how he would give money to anyone who silenced the columnist and TV personality.
Reacting to the choice of Youssoupha, deputy leader of Le Pen’s party, Jordan Bardella, denounced his “extremely virulent” lyrics on Thursday, adding: “I find it shocking that we choose someone like that to represent France.”
Speaking to France Inter radio, Bardella suggested the rapper was “racaille” — a racially loaded term used to describe young men from the suburbs, often those from immigrant backgrounds.
Far-right mayor Robert Menard from the southern town of Beziers also condemned the choice, while the right-wing Le Figaro newspaper asked readers in a poll whether they approved or not.
French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu defended the rapper, who came to France as a 12-year-old and is the son of the celebrated Congolese musician Tabu Ley Rochereau who died in 2013.
“Youssoupha is a campaigning singer who calls out racism and who is for diversity,” she told BFM TV. “That’s a good thing because sport supports these values and more specifically so does the French football federation.”
The main focus in France’s squad for Euro 2020, which was announced on Tuesday, was the return of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema after a five-and-a-half year absence over his alleged role in a blackmail plot.
Bardella also criticised the bi-national Benzema’s “dishonourable attitude” for failing to sing the national anthem while representing France and for referring to Algeria as his home.