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France suspends soccer director for alleged racial quotas

French soccer was plunged into turmoil on Saturday following the suspension of Francois Blaquart, the national federation’s technical director, over plans to enforce racial quotas at the youth level.

The 1998 French national soccer team won the World Cup

The 'Black-Blanc-Beur' won the 1998 world Cup

Less than a year after France's World Cup fiasco, the French Sports Ministry and the national soccer federation (FFF) suspended on Saturday its technical director, Francois Blaquart, over plans to allegedly reduce the number of black and Arab players in national training programs.

“Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno and FFF President Fernand Duchaussoy have decided to suspend immediately National Technical Director Francois Blaquart pending the conclusions of an investigation,” said Jouanno's office in a statement.

The alleged plan to enforce racial quotas was first revealed by the French investigative website Mediapart.

The site reported on Thursday that senior staff within the federation approved proposals to limit to 30 percent the number of players of African and North African origin once they reach the age of 13.

Then on Saturday, Mediapart published the minutes of a meeting at which French national team coach Laurent Blanc, Blaquart, U-21 coach Erick Mombaerts and U-20 coach Francis Smerecki, among others, had a debate over African players with dual nationality but groomed in France, who eventually opted to play for their countries of origin.

French national coach, Laurent Blanc

French national soccer team coach Laurent Blanc

Countering the accusations, Philippe Touran, the French national team media officer, said the debate was about players with dual nationality and that “causes and effects were being confused.”

'A lie'

National coach Blanc, who won the 1998 World Cup with a French team dubbed “Black-Blanc-Beur” (Blacks, Whites, Arabs) by the French media, has often raised the issue of dual nationality players, but he denied being in favor of quotas.

“No such project has been revealed to me. It's a lie,” he told a press conference in Bordeaux. "You cannot have quotas in football. Football is made of diversity."

But on Saturday, Blaquart said that the plan to introduce a quota for dual-nationality players had been discussed, but "abandoned."

"We have 45 percent of players in our national sides (including junior teams) who have a possibility of leaving us," he told the AFP news agency.

"We think it's a lot. We want to reduce it. We envisaged limited this situation to avoid putting ourselves in danger, but as soon as it stopped being a good solution, we abandoned it."

Unchecked immigration and the perceived unwillingness of migrants to integrate into French society are touchy subjects in France, especially in the run-up to next year's general election.

Author: Gregg Benzow (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Kyle James

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