Paris (AFP) – French football chief Noel Le Graet on Saturday slammed claims by former international Eric Cantona that France coach Didier Deschamps was guilty of racial discrimination in his Euro 2016 selection as “stupid” and “pathetic”.
Cantona told British daily The Guardian on Thursday that Deschamps had snubbed Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa because of their “north African origins”.
“I find that stupid. On the eve of the Euro, it’s totally out of order,” French Football Federation president Le Graet said on the sidelines of the body’s general assembly in Tours, praising Deschamps as “rigorous, frank, upright and honest”.
Deschamps’ lawyer said Friday that the France coach would be suing Cantona for his comments. “We are going to file a complaint for slander,” Carlo Alberto Brusa told AFP.
“Any man in his (Deschamps) position would have been upset,” Le Graet said of what he termed a “pathetic attack”.
“Throughout his career he has had an undeniable moral code of conduct. I cannot imagine for an instant that the team selections are made on any other criteria but sporting.”
“He doesn’t deserve what was written,” said Le Graet who called on delegates to show their support for Deschamps and defend his “integrity” before Euro 2016 which will be hosted in France, with a two-minute ovation.
Cantona, who won 45 caps for France between 1987 and 1995, has in the past been very critical of his former teammate Deschamps, who in 1996 he branded a “vulgar water carrier”.
The former Marseille and Leeds United striker retired in 1997 before taking up a career in cinema. In 2007 he married Franco-Algerian actress Rachida Brakni.
Deschamps, 47, went on to captain France to the 1998 World Cup title and 2000 European Championship crown.
The exclusion of Benzema, of Algerian descent, follows his implication in an alleged attempt by one of his friends to blackmail international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.
Ben Arfa, of Tunisian origins, had been hopeful of making the squad after relaunching his career at Nice but instead had to settle for a place on Deschamps’s standby list of eight players.
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