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Fri 6 May 2011 12:01 PM

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France says Arab quotas for football team would be illegal

Sports minister says she sees legal consequences if coach tries to limit players with foreign roots

France says Arab quotas for football team would be illegal
France football coach Laurent Blanc. (Getty Images)

France’s sports minister said
she sees legal consequences if national team coach Laurent Blanc, who
will be questioned on Friday by the country’s soccer federation, tries to
impose quotas to limit players with foreign roots.

“If they
spoke about quotas, then it’s illegal, and there would be legal
consequences,” Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno said on RMC radio.

She wouldn’t
say if Blanc should resign, saying she wanted to wait for the French
Football Federation to announce the results of its investigation next
week.

The FFF
opened an internal investigation after Internet site Mediapart released a
recording of a meeting where Blanc and others discussed ways to have
fewer players with foreign roots in France’s youth-training programs.

Patrick Vieira, who played with Blanc on France’s 1998 World Cup-winning
soccer team, said yesterday his former teammate should resign.

Francois
Blaquart, the FFF’s national technical director, was one of the people
secretly recorded during a discussion last November, and has been
suspended pending the probe.

Several
players, after being trained in the FFF’s youth set-up, have recently
chosen to represent countries where their parents were born, such as
Morocco, Poland, or Algeria.

“Where would
France be without its bi-nationals?” Jouanno said. “The team would be
nothing. About a quarter of the French have a link with immigration. You
can’t ignore them.”

In the
recordings, Blanc also complains that the predominance of black players
in France has led to an overly physical style of play.

“That some
terms, used during a candid work meeting about a sensitive subject, and
taken out of their context, could be considered ambiguous, I certainly
accept,” Blanc said in a statement April 30. “If I have hurt anyone, I
apologize. But I can’t accept being accused of racism and xenophobia,
when I am against all forms of discrimination.”

He said
there was never any question of limiting the number of Arab or African
players, “but to tackle the heavy and difficult question of players with
double nationality.”

The FFF has said it won’t comment further until the investigation is complete.

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