A news report that top French soccer officials were considering racial quotas to limit the number of black and Arab players in national training programs has set off a furor in France. Officials have denied the report by investigative news site Mediapart, which quoted what it said were minutes from a Nov. 8 meeting that discussed setting a limit of 30 percent on nonwhite players.
The technical director of the French Football Federation has been suspended by the sports ministry pending an investigation.
The national team coach, Laurent Blanc, who played on France's 1998 World Cup champions, has denied that quotas were being considered. That team was called "black, beurre, blanc" for its successful racial mix of black, Arab and white players — and led to some criticism from right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen that it did not represent France.
The racial issue surfaced again last year when France crashed out of the World Cup tournament in South Africa after a training field strike. Black players and a white convert to Islam were blamed as the ringleaders and suspended from the national team. They were heavily criticized as unpatriotic and ungrateful.
Some of the alleged discussion at the November meeting centered on assuring that players shared the same "values" and avoiding investing in players with dual nationality who might go play for their parents' homelands.
It's all nasty, and a reminder that France keeps trying to pretend that it doesn't have a racial problem.
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