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France suspends technical director in racism probe
PARIS (AP) - The technical director of the French Football Federation was suspended by the sports ministry on Saturday over a claim that the FFF was limiting black and Arab players in national training programs.
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.”
He added, “I am not racist at all.”
Investigative website Mediapart reported on Thursday 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 organize 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.”
In the statement Saturday, the FFF reiterated that “none of its elected officials validated or even imagined a quota policy.”
But Mediapart published on Saturday excerpts 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.’”
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