Technical director of French Football Federation suspended
The technical director of the French Football Federation (FFF) has been suspended by the sports ministry over a claim that the FFF was limiting black and Arab players in national training programs.
Francois Blaquart has been suspended immediately, pending an investigation into the allegations to be completed within eight days, the ministry and FFF said in a joint statement.
Blaquart told RTL radio he was “completely devastated” by the suspension. “I feel hurt,” Blaquart said. “I await with impatience and serenity the outcome of the committee’s inquiry. I am not racist at all.”
Investigative website Mediapart reported on Thursday (28 April) that senior federation staff approved proposals to limit to 30 percent the number of players of African and North African descent once they reach age 13.
Mediapart claimed Blaquart and national coach Laurent Blanc approved the proposal to limit minority players in training centers and soccer schools and called the move “a genuine segregation applied to football.”
“We can organise some quota system but without mentioning it,” Blaquart was quoted as saying by Mediapart.
Blaquart told RTL radio: “That such a meeting can be recorded and released publicly in such conditions is a scandal. It raises the question of the integrity of some staff members.”
On Friday (29 April), FFF president Fernand Duchaussoy and Blanc said such a move was never discussed. Blanc called the report a “lie.”
In the statement today, the FFF reiterated that “none of its elected officials validated or even imagined a quota policy.”
But Mediapart published excerpts today from a meeting held in November when ethnic quotas were mentioned. Officials from the federation, coaches from the youth squads and Blanc attended the meeting, Mediapart said.
“The debate in which I took part was obviously not aimed at reducing the number of blacks and Arabs in French football,” Blanc told the FFF website. “It only aimed at contemplating the future of French football by discussing the delicate issue of double nationality and the conditions for a new project.”
Double nationality was the initial topic of the meeting but the debate moved toward the sensitive issue of ethnic quotas.
“When players don the jersey of the (France) national team at 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 and then go and play for African teams, that bothers me a lot,” Blanc was quoted as saying by Mediapart. “The Spaniards told me: ‘We have no problem because we have no black player.'”
Blanc told the FFF website: “I admit that some terms used during that (November) meeting and taken out of context were ambiguous and I apologise if I have offended some people’s sensibilities. But I can’t bear being suspected of racism or xenophobia as I am against any form of discrimination.”
Since becoming the France coach, Blanc has often raised the issue of the numerous players with double nationalities who benefit from French training centers before choosing to play for another country.
Blaquart has also said the double nationality issue should be tackled to improve the national team’s results in big tournaments.
Blaquart said Friday the federation was exploring ways to convince those players to play for France and was adamant “no restrictive measures” will be implemented.
“The problem is the confusion,” Blaquart told RTL radio. “The word quota has been associated with ethnic issues while that was not at all the case. The problem is double nationality. It has no racial or ethnic connotation.”
According to Mediapart, directives aimed at limiting the number of black and Arab players have already been sent to training academies.