Zidane breaks his silence to back Blanc in race quota row
French football legend Zinedine Zidane has backed embattled French national coach Laurent Blanc over allegations that he discussed a quota system to limit the number of young black and Arab players. Zidane described the allegations as “unfounded”.
AP - Zinedine Zidane has backed France coach Laurent Blanc over allegations that he discussed a quota system to limit the number of young black and Arab players in training centers.
Zidane said “unfounded accusations have been made against Laurent Blanc,” according to French daily L’Equipe, which published online excerpts of an interview it will run in Sunday’s newspaper.
“I know him well. Of course he’s not a racist,” said Zidane, who was Blanc’s teammate in France’s 1998 World Cup winning squad.
The allegations follow a discussion at the French Football Federation in November on the issue of players’ dual nationality.
Zidane talked to Blanc this week to understand the context of the debate and find out what he had actually said.
“He was very affected,” Zidane said. “I think he has started doing a great job (with the France team) and that he has a real project. It’d be crazy if he leaves because of that. He must continue.”
Ouest-France newspaper claimed on Saturday that Blanc had tendered his resignation, a claim later denied by the FFF. The federation said on its website that Blanc won’t discuss the matter publicly until a commission examining the claims issues its findings.
Online news site Mediapart has published a transcript of the discussion between Blanc and other coaches about allegedly setting up a quota system for dual-nationality players, many of them black and Arab who train in France’s academies but could go on to play for other countries.
Zidane said dual nationality was not an issue and that the federation should think about more important topics like scouting, the philosophy of the game and the way young players are trained.
“The idea to select or discriminate kids on the basis of dual nationality is absurd,” Zidane said. Former teammates Lilian Thuram and Patrick Vieira criticized Blanc for approving proposals to limit to 30 percent the number of players of African and North African descent from the age of 13.
Despite coming to Blanc’s rescue, Zidane however acknowledged that the France coach made some poor comments during that November discussion.
“His words were very awkward, all the more so since they appeared in a debate with borderline expressions like the word ‘quota,”” Zidane said.
The sports ministry suspended FFF technical director Francois Blaquart a week ago, pending the conclusion of a probe into the discrimination allegations.