Paris (AFP) – The defamation case brought by France coach Didier Deschamps against Manchester United legend Eric Cantona was declared void Friday for procedural reasons.
Deschamps brought the case against Cantona after the latter accused his former international teammate of racial discrimination in his choice of players for the 2016 European championships.
Cantona claimed Deschamps had snubbed Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa because of their “north African origins”.
The court said Friday that the way the complaint was drafted had not clearly defined the case for defamation. Deschamps has 10 days to lodge an appeal.
Cantona’s lawyer, who has in the past defended his client’s “freedom of expresion”, was quick to hail “this victory”, saying “justice had been done”.
Cantona’s comments caused uproar before the European championships held in France, where the hosts eventually lost in the final to Portugal.
“One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championships. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open,” Cantona told British daily The Guardian in May 2016.
Cantona, who won 45 caps for France between 1987 and 1995, has in the past been highly 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.
The exclusion of Benzema, of Algerian descent, followed 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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