The French Football Federation: Betraying the Republic?

I’m a fan of the principles on which the French Republic is founded, especially the idea that all French citizens are the same and are treated the same, regardless of their background. The problem of course being that all-too-often, the French Republic fails to live up to its own principles, whether that has been religious symbols in schools or the treatment of people of colour. The victory of the French football team in the World Cup in 1998 was portrayed as a symbol of the success of the French Republic’s values on integration – Black, Blanc, Beur were now all simply Bleu. I was in France a few months after the World Cup, and that was definitely more reflective of the feeling among those I spoke too than Le Pen’s complaints about the team.

So what on earth is going on with the French Football Federation then? The allegations that senior football officials, including the manager and former captain Laurent Blanc, had agreed on an illegal and immoral quota to limit the number of players of colour are astounding, and sickening. The Football Federation does not deny that such a discussion took place, but said that it was a matter of trying to limit wasting resources on training players who then choose to play for another country. This has been Blanc’s line as reported today.

The excuses sound almost plausible, but when placed alongside some of the quotes from the original allegations, they are hard to take seriously.

At another meeting, the French national team coach Laurent Blanc allegedly backed changing youth talent selection criteria to favour players with “our culture, our history”. Sources claimed Blanc cited current world champions Spain, saying: “The Spanish, they say: ‘We don’t have a problem. We have no blacks.'”

The website claimed Blanc had suggested that a stereotype of player, which he described as “large, strong, powerful”, needed to be changed. Blanc allegedly told a meeting of senior federation figures: “And who are the large, strong, powerful? The blacks. That’s the way it is. It is a current fact. God knows that in the training centres and football academies, there are lots.”

Not much about dual nationality in these quotes.

There is an investigation underway, the director of football has been suspended, and we’ll see what happens. These discussions as reported represent a challenge to the fundamental principles of the French Republic (never mind basic human decency). It’s hard to see how any of those involved can credibly stay in their jobs. For the good of the Republic as well as the team, they should go.

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