SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday (Jul 16) congratulated France on winning the World Cup, hailing the country's football system where "every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths".
Pointing out that much of the French team grew up in "poor, mainly immigrant neighbourhoods", Mr Tharman said in a post on Facebook that the victory showed what was possible when young people were encouraged to develop their talents.
"It will take a lot more than a World Cup victory, and the unity seen in the celebrations back in France, to overcome the lack of opportunities and long-standing prejudices against those from these poor neighbourhoods," said Mr Tharman.
"But it shows what is possible when a leaf is taken from the French football system, and every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths."
He cited the examples of 19-year-old player Kylian Mbappe, who became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazil's football legend Pele in Sunday's final, as well as Paul Pogba "who many feel was man of the match".
Said Mr Tharman: "Some say it has something to do with these poor neighbourhoods, where there are few ways in which youngsters can enjoy themselves or show their talents.
"As Pogba said, 'there is only football'. It also has to do with the French system of providing qualified coaches in the neighbourhoods, spotting young talents, and sending the best to France’s central football academy."
France won the World Cup for the second time on Sunday after beating Croatia 4-2 in an action-packed final.