France's national football coach Laurent Blanc apologised on Saturday after he was linked with an alleged plan to enforce racial quotas in youth academies.
AFP - France national coach Laurent Blanc apologised on Saturday after he was implicated in a controversial plan to limit the number of dual-nationality players in French youth training centres.
"I admit that certain terms, used during a work meeting on a sensitive and wide-ranging subject, could be interpreted ambiguously if removed from their context and if I hurt anyone's feelings, I apologise," said Blanc in a statement.
"But to be suspected of racism or xenophobia when I'm against all forms of discrimination, I cannot accept."
Earlier on Saturday, the Mediapart website published a transcript of a meeting in November in which several high-ranking French officials, including Blanc, discussed introducing quotas for players with dual-nationalities.
Blanc did not deny the veracity of the transcript, in which he said he was "very much in favour" of a quota on dual-nationality players, but said on Saturday that his words had been twisted.
"It would be in bad faith not to see that the debate in which I participated was not about 'reducing the number of blacks and Arabs in French football,' as the sensational title of the article suggested, but about planning the future of French football and addressing the important and delicate problem of players with dual-nationalities, as well as methods of scouting/selection for a new playing project," he said.
"That this would have implications, whether medium or long term, for the profiles of players in training centres is obvious, but there is no link -- strictly no link -- with a preference for or a rejection of this or that nationality."
The transcript also contained quotes from Blanc in which he said that France was producing too many players with the same physical attributes, many of whom were black.
"You get the impression that we produce the same kind of players: big, strong, powerful ones," he was quoted as saying.
"And who are the big, strong, powerful ones? The blacks. It's like that. It's a current fact."
France's National Technical Director (DTN), Francois Blaquart, has been suspended for his role in the meeting but he told AFP on Saturday that the plan to introduce a quota had been "abandoned".
"We abandoned this idea of a percentage (of dual-nationality players), but we asked ourselves to be vigilant about players' motivations," said Blaquart, who is responsible for youth coaching policy.
Blaquart's suspension was announced on Saturday by French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno and his employers, the French Football Federation (FFF), who have launched an inquiry into the affair.
The story has sent shockwaves through French football, which has long been sensitive about the ethnic make-up of its national side.
Blanc had defended himself on Friday, insisting that he had "never heard mention of such a project," but Blaquart confirmed that the transcript released by Mediapart was genuine.
"All the words reported remain true," he said.
"Some of the words may be shocking. There was some clumsiness, but it was in a passionate internal discussion. Apart from that, there is nothing harmful."
A number of players have come through French academies in recent years and represented France at youth level, only to then switch allegiances to the senior sides of different countries.
They include Marouane Chamakh (Morocco), Sebastien Bassong (Cameroon), Moussa Sow (Senegal), Younes Belhanda (Morocco) and Ryad Boudebouz (Algeria).
Date created : 2011-05-01