French accused of plan to limit 'African' footballers

The French Sports Minister, Chantal Jouanno, called yesterday for an investigation into allegations that the nation's football body tried to set up discriminatory quotas to limit the number of players of African origin in France's youth system.

Management figures at France's Football Federation are accused of advising some youth training centres to limit to 30 percent the number of apprentice players of North-African or Sub-Saharan African origin.

Ms Jouanno called the allegations contrary to "the Constitution, the law, the values and history of football, and in particular the history of football in our country".

The coach of the French national side, Laurent Blanc, is just one of the senior figures accused of suggesting a cap on black and Arab players last November. He has denied the claims by the French website Mediapart, and said he was outraged.

A similar reaction came from François Blaquart, the national side's Technical Director, who is accused of putting forward the notion of a quota. The Federation said yesterday it was opening an investigation.

Mr Blanc has in the past expressed concern that dual-nationality players trained to play on the French team are being lost when they reach senior team stage, choosing to declare for another country. But his spokesman, Philippe Tournon, said yesterday that the national coach was firmly opposed to "discrimination in any form".

Mr Blanc was in the 1998 French world-cup winning squad, which was heralded as a symbol of integration.

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