PARIS (AP) - The French Football Federation’s federal council gave its backing to national team coach Laurent Blanc on Thursday after a dispute over discrimination claims.
“The federal council has renewed its entire faith in Laurent Blanc,” FFF president Fernand Duchaussoy said Thursday. “The federal council has taken note that no discrimination (plans) were ever put in place (at the meeting).”
The meeting between Blanc and other FFF colleagues took place in November and centered around whether quotas should be introduced to curb training academy access for young French players with dual nationality, many of them black and Arab.
France’s sports minister and a separate inquiry commissioned by the FFF cleared Blanc of discrimination claims earlier this week, but reproached him for taking part in the meeting and the language used by Blanc and others present.
Blanc was expected to speak on Friday’s national evening news.
Duchaussoy said he would give no information now on what disciplinary measures have been taken against the FFF members present at the meeting.
The investigative website Mediapart published the claims last month that plans were secretly made to limit to 30 percent the number of players of African and North-African descent in training academies once they reached the age of 13. The dual nationality debate was meant to discuss ways to limit the number of players who go through France’s junior ranks before later deciding to play for another country at senior level.
FFF technical director Francois Blaquart is currently suspended. Duchaussoy would not say if he will be fired or not.
Mediapart has since published the entire transcript of a conversation involving Blanc, Blaquart, under-21 coach Erick Mombaerts and under-20 coach Francis Smerecki in November.
In the transcript, an angry Smerecki calls the proposal a “discriminatory” idea that should never see the light of day.
The FFF added on Thursday that any sanctions would not be made public for at least another month.
Mohamed Belkacemi, a member of the FFF’s technical committee, was present at the November meeting and recorded it, handing the recording to a senior FFF member the following day.
It was then leaked to Mediapart, although no one has taken responsibility for that.
The FFF has been severely criticized for not responding to the recording when Belkacemi gave it to them.
Duchaussoy agreed the FFF should have acted quicker and regretted “the internal disfunction in terms of the chain of command and decision making” and added that “reform must be imperative.”
Belkacemi said he decided to secretly record the meeting because he had been outraged at some of the things he had already been hearing at FFF meetings since France’s disastrous World Cup campaign, when the team went on a training strike and failed to win a match.
“(I) was a neutral witness to denounce some worrying things … I didn’t prompt these discussions about quotas,” Belkacemi told sports daily L’Equipe on Thursday. “I did what I had to do.”
Although Blanc and other members have been cleared of harboring secret plans to put a quota system in place, the mistrust is unlikely to go away.
Andre Merelle, a former head of France’s national training center at Clairefontaine until being released by Blaquart in September, has also said there was a problem with the perception of dual nationals within French football’s hierarchy.
“During my time we were already reproached for taking so many blacks and Arabs,” Merelle told Mediapart. “The argument that I was given was, ‘We pay them, we bring them up, and then they go and play abroad (for another country).’”
Everton striker Louis Saha, who has played 19 times for France, expressed his disappointment that it took six months for this issue to come out in the open.
“I would have liked to have seen the light shed on this debate so it could be totally cleared up (from the outset),” Saha told RMC radio. “The words that were pronounced were serious. Misinterpreted, perhaps, but it’s still very shocking to talk about quotas.”
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