Support for coach Blanc in French racism row

The French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno will announce on Monday the initial findings of an inquiry into alleged racial discrimination within the country's football federation. Laurent Blanc, the national coach, has been implicated in the affair but has yet to attend a ministry hearing into reports the federation wanted quotas for African and Arab players in its youth teams.

"I want to bring serenity because what is happening is dramatic for football and for sport," Jouanno, who has backed Blanc, said yesterday. "You cannot accuse Laurent Blanc of being racist and we must tell everyone to remind themselves of the wonderful image of France '98."

Since Mediapart, a French investigative website, first broke the story on alleged quotas, a ministry and separate federation inquiry have been set up with the latter due to make its first report on Tuesday although that could be delayed. The latest information published by Mediapart is a chart which it says was circulated internally at the federation and identifies young players with dual nationalities who were likely to choose to play for nations other than France.

"What we should look at is what this chart was really about," said Jouanno, who refused to say when Blanc would be heard by the inquiries given he is on holiday in Italy. "The date of the hearing is confidential, I promised him. He is in the process of reviving the France team and he instills values. Now we must find a solution to the crisis." France had a woeful World Cup last year and their players went on strike but they are top of their Euro 2012 qualifying group under their new coach. Blanc has denied being racist and has said any comments he made at a November meeting into dual nationality players were taken out of context but could "offend some sensibilities".

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