The French Football Federation will hold an internal investigation into allegations of racial discrimination in the body’s youth academies.
A race row exploded earlier this week following a report by French website Mediapart, which claimed that top management approved an ethnic quota to limit the number of black and Arab players as candidates for the national team.
The report, citing sources within the FFF, said officials had requested that academies cap the number of 12 and 13-year-olds of black and Arab descent at 30 percent in a bid to make the French team ‘more white’.
The website also outed France coach Laurent Blanc as supporting the arrangement, saying the national team should favour players with ‘our culture, our history’.
The report drew the attention of French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno, who sought comment from the FFF on Thursday.
Now, FFF President Fernand Duchaussoy has promised to investigate the scandalous allegations, though he remains adamant there has been no wrongdoing at an official level.
Denying that ‘instructions, orders’ were given by the ruling body, Duchaussoy conceded: “But then, in an informal discussion … I cannot be everywhere. There will be an investigation.”
“What happened in a meeting, behind a door or in the corridor; I cannot vouch for everyone working at the federation. But I am confident (there has been no wrongdoing).”
National Technical Director Francois Blaquart said the ‘only issue’ for the FFF was young players with dual citizenship who train in France before returning to their country of origin.
“Do we accept this situation? Is it our role to groom players for other countries?” Blaquart said.
“This involves players of all origins – it’s got nothing to do with skin colour.”
Meanwhile, Blanc slammed the allegations levelled against him in a separate news conference in Bordeaux.
“It really bothers me because it’s against my values,” the national coach said.
“To me, this is totally false – there is no draft quota – and it’s a lie to say that the coach of the France team participated, so I cannot tell you about something that does not exist.”
“I have never heard mention of such a project. Diversity exists, on the street as in football.”
The racial profile of Les Bleus has long been a flashpoint issue in France, ever since the 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning team was dubbed ‘black, blanc, beur’ (black, white, Arab) in the media.
The team’s mutiny at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was privately blamed by some on black or Muslim players, notably Franck Ribery, a convert to Islam.
A lack of a ‘national identity’ was responsible for the walk-out, according to those commentators.
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