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Football legend Zidane urges French to snub Le Pen at polls

Madrid (AFP) – French football star and Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane called Friday on his countrymen to do their “utmost to avoid” voting far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen into office.

Le Pen, leader of the National Front party, was voted into the second round of French elections at the weekend and is now engaged in a fierce run-off with her centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron.

“The message is always the same, it’s that of 2002,” Zidane told reporters, referring to the year when then far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen — the current candidate’s father — reached the second round of France’s presidential elections.

That prompted many voters from the left and right to unite behind Jacques Chirac, the conservative rival in that runoff vote, to block Jean-Marie Le Pen from gaining power.

“I’m far from all those ideas, of the National Front,” Zidane, whose parents immigrated to France from Algeria, said during a news conference before Real Madrid plays Valencia on Saturday.

He added that people had to do their “utmost to avoid this. Extremes are never good,” without giving any specific voting indications.

Le Pen however dismissed Zidane’s statement, saying it was in his interest to vote for Macron as the former Rothschild banker was pro-rich.

“That’s his view. What do you want me to say? He can dispense advice about football, he’s good at it one has to admit,” she said. “But as far as politics goes, it’s not a certainty.

“With what he earns, I understand that he’s voting for Macron,” she said. “I presume that Mr Zinedine Zidane has a lot of capital and that therefore it is probably in his interest that Mr Macron gets elected so that he can guard his wealth which he has earned thanks to his talent,” she said. 

Zidane took a similar stance in 2002, participating in a video against the far-right candidate with several other celebrities like actor Gerard Depardieu and musician Jean-Jacques Goldman.

Jean-Marie Le Pen had then countered that Zidane was being “manipulated by people who are using his fame.”

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