France football coach Laurent Blanc has been cleared by the country’s sports minister over reports he condoned ‘race quotas’ in their training academies.Blanc, 45, had been accused of attempting to introduce quotas at French training academies to limit players of dual nationality, specifically those who were black or Arab.
An investigation was ordered after French news website Mediapart reported that Blanc, France under-21 coach Erick Mombaerts, under-20 coach Francis Smerecki and French Football Federation technical director Francois Blaquart were dismayed by the issue of French-trained players going on to represent other nations.
Blanc reportedly said it ‘bothers me enormously’ when players who have played for France at junior level ‘go to play for north African or African teams. That has to be limited’.
The former Manchester United defender, who won the 1998 World Cup as a player with France, has apologised for his remarks, admitting some of the language he had used was ambiguous.
He received more support from his former teammate Zinedine Zidane, who told French newspaper L’Equipe that he did not think Blanc is racist and should keep his job.
Blanc had flown to Paris to be a witness in the inquiry and now French sports minister Chantal Jouanno has come to his defence, insisting he is not racist and added that she was ‘demoralised’ by the controversy.
“Laurent Blanc was present for the first time at this type of meeting. He wasn’t organiser or pilot. He discovered the debate about quotas,” Jouanno said.
“He offered no opinions, unlike other participants at the meeting who were prepared for this debate. There is nothing to suggest that Laurent Blanc condones discriminatory guidelines.”