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France's racism row raises questions for the future

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Piers Edwards | 14:21 UK time, Friday, 6 May 2011

When France won the 1998 World Cup, the success wasn't discussed solely in footballing terms, as many will recall. Instead, countless voices - whether in the media or outside - commended a multicultural team for having helped to harmonise a nation sometimes torn by racial differences.

The Times, for example, credited the success with having "consolidated a new national identity" amongst the French.

But 12 years later, this celebration of France's multicultural ways was apparently no longer so welcome - as investigative website Mediapart discovered.

The claims that the French Football Federation's leading coaches proposed in November 2010 to secretly limit the intake of black and north African players to 30% at certain regional youth training centres, including the renowned Clairefontaine facility, were swiftly dismissed when they first emerged.

Four members of France's Fifa Under-17 World Cup-winning side from 2001 now represent African nations: Hassan Yebda/Algeria (wearing number 8), Jacques Faty/Senegal (no. 5), Mourad Meghni/Algeria (no. 10) and Emerse Fae (no. 12).

How could it be true when Zinedine Zidane (with Algerian heritage), Marcel Desailly (Ghanaian) and Patrick Vieira (Senegalese) - not to mention Lilian Thuram (Guadeloupe) and Christian Karembeu (New Caledonia) among others - were so central to Les Bleus' World Cup triumph?

But with a transcript of the conversation having appeared, and the head of the FFF's National Technical Board (DTN) admitting the words were true, a massive scandal and two separate investigations have begun in France - with the question of institutionalised racism at its core.

So what exactly changed in the intervening years?

The Fifa rules, very simply.

Coincidentally, it was Algeria, the country of Zidane's parents, which proposed that Fifa change its rules on international eligibility. Algeria successfully argued, back in 2003, that a footballer capped at junior level for one country should be able to later represent another nation.

Any change had to be made by the age of 21 but when Fifa then scrapped that rule in 2009, a wave of former French youth players washed into Africa.

Algeria led the way and when they contested their first World Cup in 24 years in South Africa, four of their starting XI were former French youth internationals - with another four on the bench. Among them were a former France Under-21 captain (Carl Medjani), a former U17 World Cup champion with France (Hassan Yebda), a Clairefontaine graduate who had represented France at all youth levels (Habib Bellaid) and one who had played for France at the U19 European Championships just a year earlier (Ryad Boudebouz).

Other African nations also followed suit, with Senegal prominent amongst them. A country that has been poor at developing its own youth players has - in the case of the excellent trio Issiar Dia (Fenerbahce), Jacques Faty (Sochaux) and Moussa Sow (Lille) - simply profited from the funds spent by Clairefontaine instead.

Sow is an excellent example of the debate at the heart of this row. Firstly, he is one of the prime reasons why Lille, whose last title came in the 1950s, lead the French championship with five games left - having struck 21 goals in 33 league games.

France's top league scorer Moussa Sow (second from right) came through the Clairefontaine academy before switching his national allegiance to Senegal

His career has gone into overdrive since joining Lille last June on a free transfer, having achieved relatively little with former club Rennes. Just a couple of years ago, he was a long way from the France team, despite having played at youth level for the land of his birth, so the then 23-year-old opted to play for Senegal in 2009 - making his debut three months after Fifa's decision to withdraw any age limit restriction.

Had Fifa not made that switch, would Sow be in the France squad today, especially since coach Laurent Blanc - at the eye of the storm for the comments he has made - has tried out a number of strikers since taking charge after the World Cup debacle?

A similar question can be asked of Desailly. Born in Ghana to Ghanaian parents, before being taken under a Frenchman's wing when his mother married again, Desailly only made his France debut a month shy of his 25th birthday - but had today's rules been in place, might he have been tempted by Ghana in the intervening period?

The problem for the French directors is how to ensure they retain the talent that they spend millions of euros developing in a way that isn't racially discriminatory - which any quota system clearly is.

As Thuram points out, any discrimination would be a further burden for a section of society who encounter challenges anyway.

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"The people affected by this discrimination are children who already encounter difficulties in French society and often their dream is to be able to make it through success in sport, notably in football, so it is a double blow for them," France's record cap-holder told the BBC this week.

Earlier, he had argued that the issue of dual nationality is a false issue anyway, insisting "the best players will be taken on by France" - which they have been in abundance.

Zidane, Desailly and Vieira apart, Les Bleus have benefited from, among others in the past, Juste Fontaine (Moroccan father), Jean Tigana (Malian father), Claude Makelele (whose dad played for Zaire, now DR Congo) and, today, two players eligible for Algeria (Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema) and another pair who qualify for Senegal (Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna).

So should the French top-brass simply accept that investment in young footballers is a gamble anyway - or can this multiracial country ensure that it retains its best talent? Or should they addres the issue by expanding the annual intake of pupils to try to ensure that more jewel are unearthed? Or can they - and I'm no lawyer - find some legal method whereby youngsters have to sign a contractual agreement?

Or is the easiest way simply to field a player in a competitive match and so bind him (under Fifa rules) to France - as happened to Lyon's Bafe Gomis prior to the 2008 European Championships, with irritation in Senegal, who were also chasing him, ever more vexed by his limited selections since.

For decades, anger with French footballing authorities was a widespread emotion across Africa. Many dual nationality players were denied international careers on the continent because they played at junior level for France.

The most famous example was probably Ivory Coast-born Roger Boli. Brother of France international Basile, Roger was denied a career with the Elephants because of less than 20 minutes he played for France juniors - a decision he has rued ever since.

This is why African sympathy is in short supply as French attempts to limit the schooling of dual nationality players have backfired so spectacularly. It's not so much the schadenfreude - it's more the satisfaction of 'payback'.

So many African players have previously been lost to France, yet important sections of the new talent parading for African teams now come gift-wrapped with a Clairefontaine bow: such as Mali's Garra Dembele (Levski Sofia), Burkina Faso's Habib Bamogo (Nice), Cameroon's Sebastian Bassong (Tottenham) and Morocco's Mehdi Benatia (Udinese).

So now, as France looks to avoid accusations of discrimination in future, their selection criteria may just have to bend the other way - meaning that Africa will further benefit.


  • Comment number 1.

    perhaps the solution is simply more fluid rules on nationality. remember those rumours about gareth bale wanting to play for england? no one is served well by a system that stops players following their hearts. if it was possible to contractually oblige clairefontaine (or more relevantly for us) st george's academy players to represent the host nation, but allow any player to switch nationality after a couple of years international moratorium, then the french would have a guarantee on their investment until the age of 23 (or whatever), and those who couldn't make the host team or really wanted to move would be able to do so later. a transitional moratorium on playing for anyone would prevent pli flopping. fair compromise?

  • Comment number 2.

    I think this is a bit of a false argument. As the article highlighted, the cream of the crop will still play for France as they recognise that this would be their best chance of winning a major trophy (and boosting their bank accounts through endorsements).

    Examples like Sow run the risk of being anomalies. 1 good season does not mean France have lost the next Henry...

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent article - a fascinating conundrum for French football - it seems to me that the African teams will gain from this either way.

    And will young players of African heritage want to risk making their debut for France if they feel they are just being "tied in"?

    I wonder if this is a problem in any other countries?

  • Comment number 4.

    Not that I've ever had the choice to make, but I just can't get my head around anyone wanting to play for a country that is not their country of heart. And any player, or person, knows where the heart truly is. Chasing an international role elsewhere seems like selling out to me.

    That's what club sides are for. Jack Charlton's 'Irish' team of the late 80's/early 90's being a case in point.

  • Comment number 5.

    It's the age old argument, and as a 100% (or as 100% as anyone can be) Scottish person I can't really imagine what it's like to feel a loyalty to two separate countries. I know it would be hard to choose, but I think regulations should be made to prevent international football developing into a glorified version of the domestic game.

    Quite simply the kid should have to choose by 21 (unless he's capped before then) and then he should stick with it. Some might go for the easy option and choose the weaker country they're eligible for, but most would probably take the risk and go for their first choice. No Brazilians turning out for Eastern European countries with lenient immigration policies, no Englishmen that couldn't make the grade showing up in Scottish/Welsh/Irish colours - just people playing for the country they identify as their own. If you aren't good enough, then you don't play international football. Simple.

  • Comment number 6.

    The current ruling is fantastic, gives many more footballers the chance to play internationally.

    The biggest win is that of the African Nations. They'll definitely benefit from players representing them who have had first class development and training.

  • Comment number 7.

    I completely agree with number 4. Surely if a person is born in a county then that is the country they should play for, if they are lucky enough to be that good! One cannot chop and change allegiance depending on which Country fancies them at the time.

    We almost risk roaming into the territory of, let's say, England pay a lot of money to have Ronaldo play for them because they could do with a decent left sided winger!!

    I would be proud to represent the country of my birth at my favourite sport. I wouldnt entertain playing for the country of my mothers birth per say, just so I could play international football... Isn't everyone that way... Seemingly not!!!

    I think that FIFA have to change the rules, make them clear and enforce them to actually stop this sort of controversy. I mean jerome Boateng plays for Germany and yet his brother plays for Ghana... Random!

  • Comment number 8.

    jay842, there wont be any "more" players playing international football. It'll be the same amount, but those playing for their 2nd choice nation will merely take the place of people from that nation who would have played otherwise.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is just payback to the system France has been striving on. Many time they have lured kids, pressuring them to choose the blue white and red colors. They would insert them into the national team just to lose their eligibility for another country and once it is done they drop them from the team. Those kids are left with nothing: they're done playing for their country of origin and not called up in the national team. It happened to Senegalese players like Edouard Cisse, Ibrahim Ba etc.
    They should just shut and know they are getting a taste of their own medicine.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think most of you are missing the point. The rules are not the problem. If the laws of France recognises these players as legal residents and they want to play for them, why does it matter if they are black or green? The Problem here is the age old overt, institutionalised racism (not that I'm surprised,our societies are built on hatred).And the fact that Blanc is involved is even more disgusting. Controversy has nothing to do with skin colour. Pappin,Cantona,Ginola,Pedros and even Domenech have created unworkable environments in French football. Or is it Okay if you're white? We do have a hint of that across the channel shores though, British Asian.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great article, a very intractable problem.

    @TheJags - Choosing by 21 sounds nice but is probably impractical. Does every kid have to choose by 21? What about kids who are playing in lower leagues? Or in amateur football? I recall England internationals (Stuart Pearce?) who were playing non-league at 21 and Drogba was in French League 2 at that age and was 24 by the time he got his first cap.

    @Steve - Being born in a country doesn't even automatically give you nationality in many countries (France being one I think!) so hardly dictates which country you should play football for. My daughter was born in Gambia to a Scottish father and Guinean mother as I happened to be working there at the time, she certainly doesn't consider herself Gambian!

  • Comment number 12.

    No 10. I'm not getting the old racism card. It's maybe more about greed. The French FA could hoover up all the best young African/French players 'just in case' they developed in to full international top class players; like Desailly etc. Then if they didn't make the grade those African/French players were in the international wilderness, unable to play for their African teams.

    Nobody, but you has mentioned the 'race' card.

  • Comment number 13.

    post 4, 5 and 7

    I guess you all know nothing of the struggles kids from Africa or South America face coming out of chronic poverty. I guess you all know nothing of what African migrants in Europe suffer in terms of racial discrimination and reduced opportunities. Before anyone says African migrants should go back to their home countries, think of the european migrants (I know they are called expatriates) in Africa...

    The current FIFA rules enables young African men from UNIQUELY difficult backgrounds in Europe to make something of themselves. It enables each of these young men to make a real difference to the lives of sometimes more than a hundred poor extended relatives. To ask FIFA to bring back the old rules because of British sporting animosities amongst the home nations, is so myopic...

    The French FA have no business talking about quotas, they always get the best products from their migrant colonial subjects. So what if they invest in some players who end up playing for African nations. This is just a miniscule payback for the economic benefit France has gained from the colonies for hundreds of years now. Perhaps the success of the African nations is annoying some in France...

  • Comment number 14.

    agentalibi, that's a very good point. However, in this day and age I reckon pretty much all "international" level players would be playing at a high enough level. And if they aren't then a registry system should implemented right the way down to the bottom tiers anyway.

    I doubt it would cause too many problems for a player to sign some simple paperwork, otherwise their nationality defaults to the country of their birth (so the vast majority wouldn't have to anyway). That's kind of my point; if they care enough about playing for a nation they'll take five minutes to fill out some forms to ensure they're eligible. I certainly wouldn't have any problem doing so!

  • Comment number 15.


    No idea where you got "I hate Africans" from me saying "young players should choose who they ill represent early". Are you suggesting that if these African kids being able to represent France at a young age is the only thing getting them noticed? Wouldn't they get a move anyway?

    If anything, I'm agreeing with these kids being able to come through France's youth academy - all I'm saying is that I don't like it when players switch nations because I feel it's a bit disrespectful to both countries involved.

  • Comment number 16.


    I have accused no one of hatred. All I am saying is that young African migrant footballers in Europe are in a footballing situation where they must be free to choose between their European abode and their African heritage nation.

  • Comment number 17.

    There is a tendency for europeans to see nationality as a solid thing when it is in fat more national. If you are a first or second generation immigrant - you will feel just as In my case) nigerian as you do british even if you have lived in england your whole life. As professional footballers i'm sure they think playing for a european country will give you a larger chance at international success in terms of trophies and the like. But i wish these please take a second and think.
    Agbonlahor can now never play for Nigeria (or Scotland for who i think he is also eligible) He would have plaid every game for nigeria and would have added something to the team. He will never get more than 10 games for England and so his international career is ruined. The same can be said for carlton cole and potentially for the likes of nedum onuoha, Frimpong, danny wellbeck etc. They will do a lot better for themselves and for the teams if they represented their african countries rather than their European ones. In addition to which they will be more loved. Cos while england fans are happy to discard an agbonlahor and dont even sniff at a victor moses - Nigeria would love these players. I'm not suggesting racism (although I am not discounting it) rather the wealth of footballers in the home of the premier league is overwhelming.
    Look at the success of Kevin Prince Boateng in the world cup for Ghana, if he had played for germany he would be a non-entity now. PLus these players don't realise how much money they could make from advertising in their home countries. Adebayor is the entire advertising industry in Togo (hyperbole) selling everything from soft drinks to motorcycles. Agbonlahor will never even get an adidas advert here in the UK cos he's not important enough.
    PS. England, France etc please train some african goalkeepers and defenders who are better than danny shittu and maybe an african team will win the world cup in my life time.

  • Comment number 18.

    Interesting argument, but it's all becoming moot. After years of keenly anticipating international matches, I've become disillusioned with World Cups. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm fast losing interest in the international scene. Watching over-priced, tired players compete in tournaments with sub-standard officiating is no longer a worthwhile pursuit. I suspect many others feel the same.

  • Comment number 19.

    As Thuram mentioned, the very best of African talent would end up playing for France anyway. I'm yet to see a Nasri, a Benzema or any other top talent chose an african nation over france.

    The root of this scandal does not lie with players having dual citizenships, but France trying to find a way to limit black and north African players from their setup.

    If not for dual citizenships, the likes of Deco, Camoranesi, Pepe and co would have been stifled out of Brazil and Argentina respectively.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think the French seem to be missing a message coming from these players who are prompt to represent the nations of their parents' origin. The message being that integration is not working in France. Many of these "Blacks" and "Beurs" (Arabs) have grown in a society that hasn't whole-heartedly accepted them. They live with that double-identity within them which makes it that easy to switch.

    By suggesting quotas et al, the French Football officials have only reinforced that perception among the French-blacks and French-Arabs that these segments of the population are not really French except they are tested (as was requested by one of the panellists at this meeting).

    The other point in this row which you seem to have avoided, Piers, is the stereo-typing of "Blacks" and "Arabs" who, according to that FFF discussion are the reason why French football is less creative. French football has been focused on producing big, athletic players who - and to paraphrase Laurent Blanc -are often black. Does Blanc believe there are no creative blacks or Arabs? Jean Tigana, Nasri, Ben Arfa, Benzema, Zidane aren't Caucasian , as far as I know.

    IMO Blanc was only voicing what most European recruiters have held as a standard for years. What positions do Africans dominate in football clubs? Centre midfield, centre-back, (a few) full-backs, and the Big strikers! Hardly ever valued for their technique, often they are switched from their natural creative roles when they come to western Europe. Jon Mikel Obi was a promising number 10. Today, he's a destroyer.

    I believe it is France's technical board's right to want to review how the country plays football - whether to maintain the physical approach or take a more creative (aka Spanish) approach. But it should not be done with stereotypical and racial undertones.

  • Comment number 21.

    The French FA are basically saying they can't trust the blacks and Arabs to remain loyal the French nation in my view, I mean knocking it back to 30% is like saying only the absolutely tallented will get in, rather than the fairly good (Carl Medjani springs to mind as I am a Liverpool fan).

    The French FA are putting these people through a footballing academy and seeing the end product play for another nation...I can understand that annoyance, but lets face it the players that are switching allegiance aren't the Zidanes or Henrys its the lower standard players, as someone else mentioned, the bigger players will always pick the France team but nowadays these kids are insane, players like Balotelli, so egotistical, they "deserve" international recognition automatically, thus if not getting into the French team they think "may as well play for Algeria" so I think the law should be changed to protect the nation who are actually footing the bill for the players training. Its like us losing people like Micah Richards, not exactly amazing but still not bad, and definately do a job.

    Though to add, at least the French have a central training centre :(

  • Comment number 22.

    There are some examples of englishmen with scottish and irish grandparents who have made the switch because they never would've made an impact in the full squad. Clinton Morrison I remember, Andy Carroll had the option but didn't.

    The Desailly example is a good one, he's proudly Ghanaian, we saw at the world cup, and if he'd been given the option at 25, he would've probably gone for it. Most of the top players though you know before they're 21 nowadays.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think there are several problems or issues going on with this situation. Having not read the whole of the transcript I'm a little wary of sounding off only to find that Blanc's comments have been taken out of context, but from a first glance they don't show him or the FFF in the best light.

    It would seem we could have a situation which is about money that has spilled into race, or more unseemly one that is about race being masked as money.

    At it's most innocent France wants to get the most bang for it's buck. As it foots the bill, it wants to retain most of it's crop, which is pretty fair. Until the change in FIFA's rules the amount of players they lost to duel nationalities seems to have been an acceptable one. The successive rule changes have moved the goalposts and while France may not be losing their top stars at the moment, with the improvement in teams like the Ivory Coast in the past decade, the present system leaves them possibly vulnerable to this is the near future. Let's face it, how ,any chances might a player actually get to go to a World Cup in their career? Many, it seems will take the boat that get's them there fastest and that will not necessarily be the French one. Sadly not everyone is a Ryan Giggs.

    At it's most innocent this is an attempt to close a gaping hole and ensure that the players they coach, they get to keep.

    However, it is the nature of some of the comments that cause concern. Most of the remarks quoted seem to centre less on this aspect and lean more towards the blacks and Arabs being responsible for all the ills of the French national team. This may be to do with fallout from the unsavoury behaviour of the squad during the last World Cup and also the off field activities of several high profile players prior to that. This is also probably a wider issue than just football.

    When the FFF talk about the type of players being produced (big and powerful "blacks"), recruiting players with "our history and culture" and about equating Spain success with the fact they have no blacks etc, then it all starts to sound a bit more distasteful. It would be bad enough coming from people in those positions caught talking casually, but when it's in an official federation capacity...

    It seems very odd coming from someone like Blanc who played in the most successful and cosmopolitan side the country has produced and alongside France's most skilful player in a generation, Zidane,of arab origin. Maybe it was a different time and a different type of player as this seems to be only the latest note in rumblings about race and this generation of French footballers. Even so, you would expect more from a man who played alongside Desailly, Thuram, Vieira etc.

    If France want to reshape to types of players they produce to move towards the Xavi and Iniesta style of player, they are within their rights. I can also see why they would not want to foot the bill for training players for African nations who might soon be in a position to outrank them, but many of the types of comments made seem to pay service to these problems while consistently landing back on negative side of the issue of race and that's what is rightly leaving many with a nasty taste in their mouths.

  • Comment number 24.

    Good article. It's always nice to read a football piece that isn't just about the usual Premiership top-6 jargon.

    I have lived in France for the past 3 years and after the last World Cup debacle, this is the last thing the FFF needed. I was one of the many who believed that Laurent Blanc would sort out the national team, having done a brilliant job during his time in charge of Bordeaux, not to mention his achievements as a player. I was very disappointed to hear that he was involved with this latest scandal. Do I think he is racist? Not at all. As someone else already pointed out, I believe the money men at the top are making him tow the line, but it still looks bad on his part.

    I think the whole 30% quota thing is a very generalised way of looking at it though. Of course, that's the headline-grabbing title that was used here in France, and when we see Thuram on the main news channel saying he's disgusted by his ex-teammate's comments, then of course this scandal is still in its infancy. However, the 'race' card being used here is a continuation of the problems from the previous World Cup.

    While the media (and therefore us) were all told about the problems between Evra and the coaching staff, and that Anelka and Domenech were in constant fight-mode, there were much larger problems going on behind the scenes. From what I've heard (and take this as you will - my wife works for one of the bosses of the largest company in France, and I wouldn't be interested in leaving a comment unless I thought people might be interested), there were religious and cultural differences seperating the team in South Africa. Apparently Ribery and Benzema 'demanded' that they be left alone in the dressing room to perform their Islamic prayers, and Domenech granted them their wish, leaving the other players to think that they were getting special treatment. Then there was the bullying of Gourcuff because of his sexuality (seriously, he's gay) by half the team, that decided not to pass the ball to him because he likes blokes. And in general, there was a segregation into different groups. The 'White French' (Lloris, Réveillère, Toulalan), the 'Arab-French' (Benzema, Ribery,) the 'Afro-French' (Evra, Diaby, Mandanda) and then the ones who didn't care either way.

    So that's why I think this whole quota thing has come about. I think the people at the top are doing their best to avoid such mayhem from happening again in future tournaments. Whether that's possible or not, who knows, and I'm not saying I agree with it. The WC-winning squad of 98 had a good mix of players and they did just fine! I wonder how Zinedine Zidane feels about his son Enzo possibly playing for the French team now??!!

    In some respects, I can understand the FFF not wanting to train young men at their expensive, top-of-the-line centre, only for them to turn around and represent some other country. But then, maybe it's justice in the form of payback. The French have been casting their net far and wide, particularly to the old colonies, for years now, in the hope of uncovering some French-eligible gold (think Vieira/Zidane).

    As other posters have pointed out, I think there has to be a ruling from Fifa / Uefa about where a players' loyalties lie. Fair enough, give the young players a chance to represent their parents' country if they like, but once they are a certain age (23?), they should be made to choose 1 country they'd like to represent. I don't buy this 'but they could get 50 games on the international stage if they played for his grandfather's country's team.' If you're not good enough, you're not good enough. Simple. I think deep down, everyone knows who they really want to represent.

    I just hope that the relevant football authorities amend the whole international eligibility laws soon, as I don't think this should be seen as a racial, discriminatory or political issue that has to be debated at length outside the world of football.

  • Comment number 25.

    Let's call a spade a spade. France has legitimate concerns if it is worried about its brand of football. Nobody can deny them that. If they want to play like Spain, they have every right to want to play like Spain. However, that's a spin which I'm not buying.

    Laurent Blanc's comments about recruiting players with "our history and culture" is shameful. If Blanc actually believe having "Français de souche" ( native born Frenchman with generational ties) equates style and poise, then Michel Platini, son of Italian immigrants, Tigana, French Sudan and Zidane that of Algerians would never had grace the French national team.

    They can blow smoke and call it whatever they want, inserting quotas will not guaranty you good football or top talent. Distaste and Discrimination are more like it.

  • Comment number 26.

    As usual nice write up Piers, an argument can be made if indeed Africa stands to gain since it seems we get the "rejects" from France and other countries. Has the FFF considered the idea that this kids makes their academy more diverse and competitive? And for the future, could they seek compensation from African federations?

  • Comment number 27.

    When and IF the english FA finally get around to opening an academy of our own, i wonder how long it will take for us to run into the same types of problems.
    How keen are we going to be on having FA trained kids hoping the borders and qualifying for say wales,scotland and ireland??? I have a feeling we wont be to pleased with investing time and money in that.
    Regarding the french issue,, the race card is being waved around far too easily here i feel, again i havent read the entire transcript , so wont claim i know all the facts.
    The french will always look to take the creme de la creme of african players, but lets face it , only a certain number of players can pull on the blue shirt, so i feel theres nothing wrong only taking the top 30% of the players of dual nationality. thats not a racist view ,but a cold hard economical one on their behalf.

  • Comment number 28.

    Blanc will lose his job over this one. It's just too controversial.

  • Comment number 29.

    @27... According to Mediapart, the percentage of dual nationality players under 16 currently stands at 39 percent.. that's that really still need restricting...

    And on your point of the race card been thrown around easily, Blanc and the FFF chose to make it about race. Comments such as "not all whites have had their chance to play football in France" made by Under-21 coach Erick Mombaerts and also outrageous comments by Blanc such as "The Spaniards, they don't have a problem because they don't have any blacks".... i don't know about you but comments such as these are clearly about race.

    You can not deny a French born kid his opportunity simply because his parents weren't born in France.

  • Comment number 30.

    Right well first off, these african players have migrated to france mostly due to poor conditions in their native countries, not over footballing issues. Therefore they have been trained by the french coaches and have been brought up to play in a french style, now add that to the typical african player who is strong and fast and full of energy and you have a very accomplished player. What the french have done is that they have been able to add composure and technique to the physical attributes which the african players already possess. So i think that it is only right that they would want to play for france rather than their birth country, yes their will be more competition in the french team but there is a greater chance of success. However it is really up to three parties, the player, the french national team, and the player's birth country. It is really just a question of who gets there first, if the player is promising at an early age then it will be down to the two countries to persuade him to play for their specific country and that is all that can be said about it. France have profited greatly from using african players as the majority of their first team and great players like viera henry thuram trezuguet etc are all of an african background. But look at the arsenal youngster chuks aneke, who is an extremely promising player and will go onto make the first team i believe, anyway although i think he may have been born in england, he has some roots which connect him with nigeria and they have had discussions with him and i'm pretty sure that he has decided to play for nigeria instead of england.

  • Comment number 31.

    referring to comments 7, sometimes where you heart is and where you are born are two different things. I'm an Irish lad living in Scotland, if I have a child born here and grows here with any sporting talent I will be directing him definitely towards playing for Ireland, he/she will know all about their Irish heritage and family.
    I watched a very good French film last year called The Class, it was set in a tough Paris inner city school and a lot of it focused on the racial issues in a very mixed group of 14 yr old kids especially when the African nations cup was on and the 'French' kids getting angry at the 'African' kids putting the country of their parents before France.
    Its not always black or white regarding your preference. There are some who just want international football with anyone, i don't agree with it but i understand it, and i can say i had any issues with Charlton's ireland of the 80'/90's mainly due to the fact that when they played they put everything into it, and the country loved them for it.

  • Comment number 32.

    The French Team is like the French Foreign Legion. Made up of many different nationalities to serve the best interests of France. No allegiance necessary necessary, just serve French interests. Job done in 1998. The last world cup exposed the flaws of that mentality. And the nation turned on the national side with a vengeance. It was clear that a large portion of the team had no national pride and were merely mercenaries who folded when the going got tough.
    If we are going to go down the route of follow your heart then we should consider having a national club side representing the country. Where one can purchase the best players from around the world to represent countries - the highest bidder gets the best players. Do away with national pride totally.

    This is a typical tale of hoisted by your own petard! But how French! Whereas this concept is "foreign" to my psyche as I would be proud to represent the country of my birth. But there is always some c*$k from a different ethnic background that has to play the racial card. The solution is simpleto all those non indigenous people who choose to live else where: fit in or f$*k off.

  • Comment number 33.

    Show me the money, If I run Clairefontaine or St George's or wherever and the millions I spend developing a player end up benefitting a different organisation then I want compo.

  • Comment number 34.

    No. 31.
    How pathetic.
    If your kid was born and raised in Where-ever that kid is a citizen of that country.
    If you and your family take with open hands what that country has to offer you OWE that country.
    Go home to raise your kid!
    I am of Irish heratige but the very day that my kid was born in Australia I changed my nationality.
    I for one dont want to be a different nationality than my kids.

  • Comment number 35.

    Oh well, what comes around goes around. France were happy enough to have an "international" team when they won it. If they had lost, I'm positive Desaily would have been just another Ghanian, Zidane just another immigrant Algerian. I live in France and my French friends have confirmed this. Kind of like how Andy Murray is British because he is good. If he wasn't any good, he'd be Scottish. Racism, pure and simple.

    Let the African teams benefit, they've had there best players cropped for quite a while now.

    @Steve The Boateng's play for different countries as they are originally Ghanian but also have German nationality, hence they have a choice like Sami Khedira (Iran), Mesut Ozil (Turkey). Not random at all, just the state of affairs in the increasingly globalised world.

    E.g. I was born in Algeria to Welsh and Egyptian parents, but lived my life in the US and England. I could technically qualify for 4 or 5 countries. Of course I'd choose the team with the most chance of getting a trophy or the one which would take me (if I'm not that good). When you're multi-national like me, you "belong" to any of the nations, as long they except you as such, which sadly doesn't happen most of the time. You're never considered "100% pure", so you react in kind and have a nomad nationality, prepared to chop and change nationalities.

    Birds coming home to roost. Like it or lump it, it's the future. It's why the idea of countries is so anachronistic and simplistic.

  • Comment number 36.

    "I think most of you are missing the point. The rules are not the problem. If the laws of France recognises these players as legal residents and they want to play for them, why does it matter if they are black or green? The Problem here is the age old overt, institutionalised racism (not that I'm surprised,our societies are built on hatred).And the fact that Blanc is involved is even more disgusting. Controversy has nothing to do with skin colour. Pappin,Cantona,Ginola,Pedros and even Domenech have created unworkable environments in French football. Or is it Okay if you're white? We do have a hint of that across the channel shores though, British Asian."

    The fact theyre black is irrelevant. Its the fact that certain players will have millions of pounds pumped into their development by France, only for them then to decide they actually want to take their new found abilities and play for their grandmothers team because theyd be a star name, rather than another average fill in.

    Using the british asians as an example is an interesting one. Its something that could be a problem for the English national side when the big academy is up and running. I can certainly foresee a fair amount of asian talent gaining the ability at the academy, only to decide that actually they want to play for their country of origin (or parents origin) like Pakistan. Whatever way you cut it its an awkward one. There are two causes to the problem. Theres the greed of the bigger countries in wanting to nick talent from other countries, and then theres the selfishness of players wanting to be able to chop and change nationalities to play for other countries.

    If someone has dual nationality i guess they should be free to play for either side. It does seem a little harsh that I can only play for one one national team in my lifetime if I am eligible to play for two. Having said that we need to stop people taking the mick. Its ridiculous that a brazilian can just decide that he wants to play for a weaker side because he cant get in the the brazil team. I mean its tough. Get better or dont play. Id like to play national football but itd be ridiculous for me to go and live in a weak african country for 3 years so i could play for the national team in.

    You should have to decide who your allegiances are with by the time youre 23. If you are persuaded youre good enough to play for France and it turns out you are not, tough. Shouldve chosen more carefully

  • Comment number 37.

    Louis Fernandez, Michell Platini, Raymond Domenech, Robert Pirez, Eric Cantona etc etc all have thier heritage from outside France, but proudly represented France. Oliver Neuvell and Roberto Di Matteo are from Switzerland but proudly represented Germany and Italy respectively, and so did Autralian born Christian Vieri. Simone Perotta is born in England.. The list is endless and is not limited to African players alone. Although I think that players should represent the countries where their fooballing identity and culture is developed, there is no point trying to stop players playing for countries that the have connections to, or countries that they choose to represent themselves.

  • Comment number 38.

    They were caught red handed in what is an obviously suspect agenda.
    Immigrants are accused of 'taking over' if they attempt to integrate and of seperatism if they do not.

  • Comment number 39.

    Very interesting blog.

    I've always found it odd when Scottish and Welsh football fans use the whole 'small population' arguement as an excuse why their countries fail to qualify for tournaments, then pick a whole load of players not even from that population. In football terms the populations of Scotland and Wales is everyone from that respective country, and every English person of Scottish or Welsh decent.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's globalisation stupid!

  • Comment number 41.

    @33. Spot on. If your spending millions of euros in youth development, yet risk losing 45% of that investment to other countries who will benefit, yet have invested absolutely nothing in the player, you have every right to want guarantees of return, either financial or loyalty commitments - which the new rules don't provide.

    African nations should either improve their own youth development programmes or provide proper compensation for youth training supplied by another country. If they cant do either, they should keep their hands out of other countries pockets.

    This is about money, it benefits African nations to bend this to be about race.

  • Comment number 42.

    basically what they should do is make the kids sign a contract when they are taken on saying they will re-imburse the FFF if they choose to play for a different country that way the FFF cant moan as they are being paid for the training and the young guys who dont quite make the elite can have an international career still but as with all things in life you have to pay , 500k Euros would seem to be about right as an example

  • Comment number 43.

    those young people who go from Africa with their families are following their wealth, taken by the French from Africa (Gold, Oil...etc) France took and still taking all the Africa wealth, so why their football bosses concern to give Africans some money back. If France did not damage Africa and took their wealth, Laurent Blanc would have immigrated to Africa and played his football for Ghana instead of Ghanaian playing for France.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think that the debate is losing its way here. Let us get one thing correct. The French born and raised players who have represented African countries are those that have not been picked by France. Of all the players that I know off, only one - Assou-Ekkoto, opted to play for Cameroon, and made it clear that he did not want to play fro France from the very beginning. So, why stop them playing for a country that they have family connection with if they will not be representing France?

  • Comment number 45.

    @41 - African Nations don't go about with a policy to wait and recruit talent developed from elsewhere. They were playing football before the rule change. They simply select people who are their nationals. If you are English, no matter were you were born, grew up or trained to play football, you are eligible to be selected for your national team. Owen Hargreaves could have played for Canada - why didn't you refuse his selection on the grounds that his footballing education was not done in England!?

    Secondly, and contrary to what seems to be making the rounds, not all players who have switched nationality in France have gone through Clairefontaine or in other words have been developed by French State Funds. Most of them have come through the ranks of clubs. And clubs, except you prove the contrary, develop players for themselves and their businesses, if these players end up playing for a national team fine; but their interest is themselves. What they want is to win things so they care less if the person is called Moussa and is French or Malian.

    @42 - They should make the kids sign a contract, right? The problem sir, is that they choose to do so only for kids from African (including Arabs) heritage. Why didn't Blanc and co complain of Ludovic Obraniak who was entirely developed in France but chose to play for Poland where his grand father migrated from. I hope that they would make all kids who have mixed ancestry - from Pires (Portuguese), Trezeguet (Argentina), Plantini (Italian) - to sign those contracts and not just those whose names are Moussa, Ali, Zidane or Messaoud.

    I thought your societies were supposed to be exemples of freewill! You know, Sarkozy could choose to play for Hungry like Camoranesi did to play for Italy! It is his right and, it is Moussa Sow's right to decide whether to play for Senegal or France. They are both his nations.

    And by the way, switching nationalities and issues about representing where you are born don't matter when it comes to picking Boumsong - born in Cameroon to Cameroonian parents and having lived there until 13 - to play for France under 16 until the senior team. At least, he can go back to Cameroon and do a few humanitarian projects - right? But it hurts when Gaetan Bong, born in Cameroon raised there but selected for French u-21s decides to play for Cameroon at senior level?

    When it was rumoured that the Spanish were about to pick Enzo Zidane - the son of their darling Zinedine Zidane - the French press went wild. 'The Spanish are stealing our own,' they suggested. At that time, it was convenient to forget that Enzo Zidane was born in Spain and is being developed at the Real Madrid Academy. Their view was simple: He is French; the son of a Frenchman (albeit of Algerian origin) who represented France (and gave France its lone World Cup).

    Curiously, the argument changes and people start talking of the cost of developing a player and the lack of patriotism of immigrants, when it becomes likely that Guy-Armel Kana Biyick, the son of a former Cameroon international, but born in France is about to switch to play for Cameroon (whose deputy coach happens to be his, uncle Omam Biyick).

    I repeat, the French have a right to discuss how their football development should go, but once xenophobic stereotypes and racial undertones are part of the discourse, it bends everything.

  • Comment number 46.

    Anyone who agrees with the fact that players should only be able to play for the country that trains them is simply overlooking an important fact. Professional footballer are professionals, not amateurs but professionals. Football is their career.

    Say I was to go to a trade school in england. And after graduating,no substantial job offers. But say Scotland where my nan lives were looking, i will be made to turn it down.

    Besides, the bulk of the money that French FA receives are not from public funds but from private donations and sponsorship deals. And while every body seem to be up in arms over the cost of training dual nationality players, i seriously doubt it is anything to lose sleep over. Besides, is not as if france could use a Hassan Yebda (algeria) or a Jaques Faty (senegal).

  • Comment number 47.

    I don't know why people are bringing racism into this. The French are right to protect their interests, and immigrants should pass the cricket test. Migrants who do not make it difficult for people who do integrate. It may be that some of these players have no chance of playing for France, but it still looks bad. And Africans have little right to complain about racism, as it is the only continent that actually boots people out of countries because of their skin colour.

  • Comment number 48.

    The points raised are intriguing. I think a player should only be able to represent the country where he or she is trained as a footballer. Look at the recent article about UAE wanting Fifa to reduce the number of years a player spends in a country before he/she is able to represent the country to 2 years. If that happens we'll probably have countries around the world poaching players from each other. If someone isn't good enough to play for the country that trains he/she, the player should either improve or accept that he can't play international football.

  • Comment number 49.

    They should just allow a player to play for a new national team if he has not played for "his own" after 3 years even if he has been capped before.

    For example in the past players were able to represent multiply national teams; look at Alfredo Di Stefano, he played for Argentina, Spain and Bolivia in his carear, thats 3 different national teams.

    So let me put it this way, say a player is born and raised in France and opts to play for an African team due to him not thinking he's good enough to play for France, say he gets to the point where he believes himself good enough (or is good enough) he can decide not to represent the country he played for; for 3 years and then get called up for France (this is obviously if that player is eligible), this also works for players who are represented by a larger nation (like France) at a young age but doesn't quite fufill the potential to play for them regularly, he could then opt to play for a country where he is a dual national (ie an African team).

    This way everybody has a chance; and ever national has a pool of higher quality players to choose from.

    The only losers in this system would be a smaller country who had a player who decided he wanted to play for a larger one and refused a call up for 3 years (or however many it would be), but even then those countries might of never had access to the player in the first place.

  • Comment number 50.

    @47...The reason why the race card is been pulled is the talk to implement quotas on a certain race (blacks and arabs)...The French FA could have so easily avoided that backlash by talking of quotas against dual nationals, albeit that still been illegal.

    But I guess as according to Under-21 coach Erick Mombaerts, they don't want to limit the chances of the likes of laurent koscielny (poland) and Mathieu Valbuena (Spain)

  • Comment number 51.

    I always thought it odd that the 1998 World Cup side had so proportionally so few French born players. Can anybody tell me what the proportion was please? Last year's team, though there were many black players was for the most part a french born team.
    I have never lived in France, I have a question. Why are there so few WHITE players? Is there a racist view of the white men who (I presume) run football in France that black boys make better players than white boys?

    Is it a class issue, a bit like boxing? is it like 100m sprinting? I suspect there is actually a lot of racist prejudice in sport generally, it appeared to me that the French had instituted a prejudice in team selection when they won the World Cup.

    I would welcome discussion of the points I make, rsvp.....

  • Comment number 52.

    @51...Well, according to Bruno Gollnischm, a parliamentarian; it scandalous to have 9 blacks representing a country that is predominantly white. Albeit 8 of those 9 players been born in france... Race for whatever reason seems to be always a hot topic in france...

    And also there's this belief that a 12 yrs old black kid of similar technical skill tends to get the nod over a white kid of the exact age due to physical development...that maybe true. I guess that's why Blanc talks of restricting large, strong and powerful (blacks) for players who have a certain intelligence for the game...The only catch here is that you can be large, strong and powerful ( van Basten, Ballack or Gerrard) and be white or dribbler, technical and intelligent ( pele, Eusebio, Seedorf) and be black

  • Comment number 53.

    Thanks Brontus,

    football is presumably the most racially mixed game of all, its also the most mixed in terms of size and shape. The greatest player at the moment is Messi not a strongly built man particularly.
    Are white kids just not interested in playing football in France? that seems a little hard to believe? I must say; it always struck me that there was a bias towards selecting black players one way or another in France. An idea that Black men are better athletes (c.f. notions of virility) . The French team seemed like a gathering together of mercenaries. A fine example of racial integration, yes, of course, but is it the result of racial stereotyping?

    Of course, immigration from Africa can be looked on as negative for African countries in other contexts, what about the brain-drain away from Africa (and Asia) to provide staff for our National Health Service? I'm sure Doctors and Nurses are badly needed in EVERY country on Earth.

    I'm assuming that Basketball in the USA, is dominated by black players because it is more popular among them than among whites? or are black men actually on average taller than white men? I've no idea. As for American Football is that proportionately dominated by Black players because they are actually better at the game or is THAT down to notions of racial physical superiority among (predominantly white?) coaches? are black men stronger? is that nature or (working class) nurture?

    Same with 100m running? at the longer distances East Africans pre-dominate, I get the thing about being brought up at altitude, but what about the north African middle distance runners, nature or nurture down to role models?

    Mixed race multi-event competitors? or am I thinking to much?

    Don't lets get onto the idea that black people cannot swim very fast! Or is that belief based in some fact?

  • Comment number 54.

    No. 34, in the current world with lack of economic opportunity I think 'going home' to raise my hypothetical kid isn't always an option if you have no work to go home to. As you, I don't want to be a different nationality to my kid either, you just don't seem to have as strong feelings towards your original ties that I have since you changed yours. As for 'owing' the country, I pay my taxes mate, my debt is clear.

  • Comment number 55.

    I think that the French are trying to hide their racism behind the dual-nationality argument. Although nowadays a lot of african players have French nationality, most of them aren't good enough to get picked to play for France and choosing to play for their parents country is their right. In fact France have a greater pool of players to choose from compared to England : about 60 French players have played in the CL this season and yet they're raising this issue!!! Maybe the French should ask themselves what would happen if we started kicking their top players from our Premier League??

  • Comment number 56.

    Piers in answer to your;

    "The problem for the French directors is how to ensure they retain the talent that they spend millions of euros developing in a way that isn't racially discriminatory - which any quota system clearly is."

    They must rid themselves of notions that African boys make better footballers than French ones and stop racially sifting the pick at their Regional Youth Training Centres.

    Its a kind of (widespread) racism with a bit of inferiority complex thrown in that makes some white people (and black people) for that matter think that black kids have more sporting potential than whites. Plus the specifically French attitude to its former colonies and départements that regards their natural resources (in this case human) as belonging to France,

    n'est-ce pas?

    mais, aussi je sais pas parce-que je ne suis pas l'expert. (je m'excuse)

  • Comment number 57.

    #45 (NgilaMoto)...

    I agree with everything so say...well said!

    On a lighter note, can you imagine if Patrice Evra, Patrick Viera, Bacary Sagna etc all had opted to play for Senegal...that would have been some team...Evra on left back and Sagna at right back with Viera in the middle. Plus Bafetimbi Gomis in attack along with the strikers they have now - Demba Ba, Moussa Sow, Papisse Cisse, Mame Diouf etc team would have been incredible. They would have beaten my Cameroun Lions even more than the 1-0!

  • Comment number 58.

    "Payback", huh? That actually is the practical solution.

    Despite Piers doing a good job to clarify the issue, there is a huge conflation of two separate matters both in these responses and in the wider debate in France - there are racism and financial considerations. To the latter, there is already an analagous scenario. When one club wants to lure a youth away from another club, compensation has to be paid. There is an independent adjudication panel that sets the level of compensation (possibly a fixed price plus payments depending on future appearances). FIFA (who Piers points out altered the rules in the first place)could set up such an impartial and transparent panel (ahem) to set a fair compensation to the French and other national FAs. They could take into consideration the relative prosperity of the African nation in question to avoid unfairly penalising a poorer nation or the richer nation holding the poorer one to ransom. Of course it wouldn't be restricted to Africans or players of colour; it might just as well apply to the future St. George academy when youth nurtured with the English FAs time and money turn out for Scotland.

  • Comment number 59.

    The solution is simple in theory, but more difficult to implement - have no such thing as dual nationality.

    If any person may only have the passport of one country, only qualify for citizenship of a single country, and only represent the country they are a citizen of and carry the passport of, end of debate.

    To change citizenship, emmigrate and live in the country you want citizenship of. When you qualify for citizenship your citizenship (and passport) of the previous country is revoked. You need to live and contribute to the society you wish to gain citizenship of for whatever number of years that country requires of all immigrants, whether they are footballers or not.

    Once you have changed, you are no longer a citizen of your previous country, and must "emmigrate" to that country and live there for x number of years - like any other immigrant - in order to qualify again for the passport of that country.

    Only one passport, and citizenship of one country, at a time.

    Then, why should any country be expected to carry the cost of trainig someone from another country? They may be trained if they carry the cost themselves.

    Now we have a situation where any country does not bear the cost of training people (footballers or not) for the benefit of any other country, but will train them if they (or their country of citizenship, or any particular benefactor) is prepared to carry the cost.

    In that case, whether the person is "black", "white", "green", "pink" or "purple" is of no relevance, and any claims of "racism" go out the window - exactly where they belong !

  • Comment number 60.

    If I was born and raised in America to English parents, attended an American University and later on in life moved to UK to work, the Americans can not turn around and ask the UK compensation for schooling its own citizen...

    Any citizen of any given country has the right to be schooled by any given institution, granted he or she is qualified to attend that institution...

    If the French are unhappy about FIFA's changes in regulations, the should petition FIFA like the Algerians did to rescind its decision...

  • Comment number 61.

    Beautifully put Brontus.

    Football is about the only sphere in which human beings are bought and sold.

    It has that in common with slavery.

  • Comment number 62.

    I dont think that you get it.
    Raising a kid in Where-ever means that your kid speaks and acts as a member of that country.
    He thinks the same as do all of his mates, to tell him that he is a foreigner in what he considers to be his home is a disgrace.
    To say that I gave up my heritage too easily is an insult.
    My wife is an Aussie.
    I am not going to give her or our 3 sons up for a lost ideal either.
    Simply paying a few Quid in tax does not make it moral!

  • Comment number 63.

    A player may be born in one country, he may learn the culture , speak the language and do everything else like a citizen of that country of his birth. The other thing that happens to him is that his parents tell him about his relations in their country of their birth, his cousins and how important it is that he doesn't forget his roots. So in the end he's a citizen of He’s a citizen of one country mentally and a citizen of another in his heart. Then comes the question of which option will further his career the most. Which one will he go for? Tough question.

    I'm Ghanaian, I wont swap it for any other country- and maybe no one needs me either. In my humble opinion nationality is in the blood. A constitution can change a fact but not the truth.

  • Comment number 64.

    The issue about non white french players, most of them never ever being outside france, deciding to play for the countries of their parents reminds me of the ugliness of unconscious discrimination and rejection. Supposing any one of the people that have commented on this issue was non racist enough to adopt a child that was a different colour,or even the same colour, how will he or she react to that child deciding to go live with the biological parents who have never contributed to the childs upbringing.
    The stark truth is that if the adoptive parent loves the child and treats the child properly the child will never look to go to the biological parents.
    Everyone knows the racism in french society,a fact that did not allow Anelka sing the french national anthem, and rather than pathetic comments we should be talking about how to eradicate this divisive problem. I havent seen white australians,racist as they are,complain about their rugby players of colour play for western nations so why the big deal in france.France should be wasting time and energy fighting the divisions entrenched in its society and if they succeed in making all french citizens feel french then there will be no need for QUOTAS,even though quotas are unwritten and exists in the bbc even.

  • Comment number 65.

    First of all, I will apologize as English is not my mother tongue but because I feel concerned by the issue I would like very much to contribute to the debate. My point of view is that the focus should not be lost on what is underneath this whole affair.
    For the posters who think that the FFF will be right to impose entry quota to football academy to bi-nationals please bear in mind that we are talking about children of 12-13 years old who are labeled bi nationals because their name or one of their parents’ name does not sound French enough. At this age they surely have not made a choice to hold a dual nationality. But because of their parents or great parents’ origins, they will be barred to fulfill their dreams irrespective of their talents (even the French technical director admitted this is how all this 40%+ figure are obtained). If that’s not discrimination how are we going to call it?
    The fact that some of them will choice to play for another country is linked to many issues: desire to play international (if judged not good enough for the French team), raising his profile and money returns, level of connection to the “second” country but surely also by the relative failure of the French integration system. Because, if anyone can put the bi-national tag at you at age 12, this just shows for many you are a second grade citizen and you right can be taken from you because of return of investment concerns.
    What happened in South Africa is not stranger to this whole affair and because Domenech was the willing scapegoat of the whole affair, we do not know the whole story. Rumors of racial and religious clash surfaced which could explain their desire to avoid the repeat of this kind of situation.
    But Yes Zidane is tall and Arab but is also the most accomplished French technical player of all time while Gattuso is short and white like Xavi but play like De Jong.
    Abidal in Barcelona does not play the same way he was playing in Lyon and Pique and Busquet are tall and white but can play with flair when needed more Because this is the whole philosophy of the Barca team.
    My last point will be to reverse the question to the FFF. Why so many players who go trough your academies are not judged good enough to play for the French team. And looking at the current level of players included in the current French team set up, it means that many of those players are really not world-class material. Why and how were they selected to start with? Proper Review and investigation should be undertaken.
    My fear is that the selection process can be resumed as: among the children facing school difficulties and therefore not guarantee a tertiary education, (or even higher school but an “apprentice education” instead) which are the one who can play soccer?

  • Comment number 66.

    I must point out that Football is a global business, operating in an increasingly globalized socety. Football players come mostly from working class Western European urban centers (not just france) that often means an Immigrant background. Why are the French so upset if they help train Other countries Footballers??? Britain trains most of the worlds bankers, and what percentage of this years LSE graduates are British?
    Mladen Petric (of Hamburg SV, scorer of goal that eliminated England from Euro 2008 qualifying) lived almost his entire life in Switzerland, and his footballing skills were crafted in the suburbs of Bern...... when he choose to play for Croatia and not Switzerland who he did represent as a youth people were shocked. Petric's reason, he was confused why his parents law abiding working immigrants from Croatia were never allowed to hold a swiss passport........and Petric suspected that had he not been a footballer the Swiss would also not grant him a passport (He would still have a b-30, making you return to country of origin after 30 years).
    Footballers also make their choice for money............Do you really think Mesut Ozil would have got that big move to Real Madrid and the big contract if he didn't dismantle England and Argentina at the world cup playing for the Balck and White of Germany..........Had Ozil lined up for Turkey as most young Germans of Turkish usully do....he most likely would be on a mid table Bundesliga team making half the money!

  • Comment number 67.

    I completely agree with the posts above re compensation being the best way to resolve this.

    Realistically if a player is signed to the FFF academy they should sign a contract stating that if they decide at a later date to play for another country as an international player there should be compensation.

    This is something that should be led by FIFA in my opinion, so as to prevent countries deliberately creating a barrier to exit by pricing players out of reach.

    Realistically each prem youth player gets the equivalent of £250k investment per year, so that means you are looking at a FFF trainee having a buy-out of maybe up to 2M euros.

    The FFF should be taking this approach in having African Countries subsidize by paying only when they want to give a player a full cap - not talk about racism & style of play which is completely disingenuous.

  • Comment number 68.

    Yet once again La Belle France shows itself to be not so pretty afterall, and in this latest possible racial quota system only besmerches the beautiful game of football. It would appear that of the three words enscribed on the French psche (Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité) none are in any way the true feeling of at least the FFF, nor of too many others.

    It would appear that humans, whether or not associated with football, cannot disregard superficialities, be it physical type, skin tone or place of birth. Nor can they appreciate that it is in our diversity that strength lies, not in the artificial lable of 'nationality' or 'race'. Genetically we all have ancestral origins from Africa.

    None of us chooses where, geographically, we will arrive in this life, and in reality that is not what defines us-unless of course we allow it to or allow others to define us. Interestingly enough, FIFA finally understood that, with the aid of Algeria, and has made it possible for a young man (and presumably a young woman) to choose his own identity and national team. In so doing, all of the major football leagues have a fantastic assortment of players with the diversity of lineage, culture and talent which makes their teams strong. One has only to check the squad rosters of premier (and lesser) teams to know this is true, whether English, Scottish, Spanish, German, Italian, Greek or other. Where would Barça be without Messi, the Rangers without Bougherra, ManU without Chicharito, Socheaux without Boudebouz, the Hearts without Bouzid, or the Wolves without Guedioura, just to name a few?

    And where would France have been in 1998 and 2006 without Zizou, Thuram, and all the others who were only 'French' because they were born in that country? The FFF apparently has a huge memory loss....By 2006 Zizou could have chosen to be a Fennec, and the others could have chosen their countires of origin.

    One would hope that FIFA has this possible quota scheme by the French in its sight, and will not only monitor its movement but speak out against its injustice.

  • Comment number 69.

    Freedom of choice. Players' needs international exposure especially at national team level to get more recognition. If the French team could not offer that opportunity to the players then they are free to seek it elsewhere before the end of their career.
    I see no reason why this should breed discrimination in the French FA.

  • Comment number 70.

    It seems that the situation in this case is one of racism but it does highlight a problem with the new rules introduced by FIFA. Players who are born in Northern Ireland are eligible to play for Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland as a result of the Belfast Agreement, - no problem there. However, 6 or 7 players have recently declared for the Republic despite playing for Northern Ireland at youth level and in some cases at full international level albeit in friendlies.

    As people have said, the best players will still play for France and the FFF must be fairly wealthy. For the IFA however, who can barely afford to refurbish the internation stadium in Belfast, this is more of a problem and I fail to see why anyone would be surprised that an organisation that has invested in young players is annoyed when those young players then decide to go elsewhere. There has to be some common sense applie to this or small nations like Northern Ireland will simply cease to exist.

  • Comment number 71.

    70. At 03:46a.m. 10th May 2011, jadedaltogether wrote:

    The Northern Ireland and France cases are different , as CAS has pointed out the complicating factor in NI is , like other home nations and SARs of China its a International Agreement that allows the change of Nationality due to the respective citizenship rules . One suggestion by CAS was Players born in the republic , who are intitled to UK citizenship under UK law , ie anybody in the republic a with parent/grandparent born before 1949 , could declare for NI , the IFA turned this down NOT the FAI . The finances of the IFA are in a sorry state and the only reason the FAI have money left is because of the profile of thier international team , they are practically broke after going halves on a stadium they will never own and can barely fill . The leagues both sides of the border struggle to keep sponsorship players and fans , more football fans leave the island every weekend to watch rangers/celtic in scotland or man u /liverpool / arsenal /chelsea than attend bboth leagues put together .

    And that is where the problem begins for both countries and the tie in with the FFF problem is . The FFF centres are to help the french game , is there a centre in NI ? roI? no . The relitive small input from the FAI/IFA into domestic developement is a joke . The problem then is declaring for other international sides when a English/Scotish club have brought these players on , Lowry at Villa roI to Aus , Gibson at Man U NI to roI , the resources put into these players by the IFA and FAI at junior level is transport home for meets only before internationals , hardly the extensive investment by the FFF?

    The IFA and FAI should look at themselves and stop complaining about the players leaving and look at their own developement system of players . Lee Camp -developed by Derby , U21 England now NI no.1 (2 caps) versus Alan Mannus , Linfield now Shamrock Rovers (4 caps) . If the two associations keep looking for others to develope thier talent they dont have a right to moan . The FFF do have a right to moan but without the racist tones and stupid qouta , this could spur a dual nationality player to make most of the FFF centres with the direct idea of saying " bye-bye im not in your heart and your not in mine , thanks awfully for the help " .

  • Comment number 72.

    Somebody already mentioned (or questined) that young white french maybe are not so interested in football and here's a story to tell.
    Couple of years back I was on holiday in Sweden and while playing some football with my kid, we were aproached by a french (black) kid asking if he could play with us.
    To be a kid of 14 years of age he was (and french not least) he was surprisingly good in english. The kid was from Marseille and he told me that most of the kids playing football at their academy were foreigners from Africa and that french (white) kids weren't all that interested in being a football players.
    Young white french, as he put, were more interested in individual sports rather than physical-contact team sports and if you look at the team-sports in France (handball, volleyball, etc.) most of them look like their football national team, in other words, full of Africans.
    The same thing is, I would say happens in most of the European countries, in Sweden you have Ola Taivonen(Finland), Zlatan (born in Sweden with bosnian parents), Majstorovic (Serbia). In Germany you have Podolski and Klose (Poland), Lahm(France), Ozil (Turkey) and so on. It's just the time we live in. Globalization as somebody put it.
    But to me it seems, that it only becomes a problem if somebody, who's not found good enough for their European countries, chooses to play for another country they are eligible to play for.
    This isn't racism some say. I would say it is.
    Now lots of people are saying that France spent large amounts of money on these players and they feel robbed by their African counterparts (lands of origin) and this I can't understand.
    Who brought this players to France? I'm not 100% sure on this but I'd say it's the clubs and not national team.
    It's the clubs, looking to make some money, that pay for this players, not FFF.
    And nobody sees the problem as long as these players are good and play for their new countries or not good enough and don't play either for their new countries or their countries of origin, but the moment they choose to play for African countries cause they can't get into French or English national teams they are sellout!!!
    And this is not racist?
    If Hargreaves chose to play for Germany or Canada, I'm pretty sure you'd all be calling for his head right away. But when Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha or Agbonlahor play for England it's cool. Still not racist?
    This whole issue is racist. But it's based on rationalising (as long as it benefits my own country we'll find a rational explaination, but if other coutries benefit from it we'll find it rational to protest) and dressed up as a "money spent on players" issue.
    England, France, Germany, Netherlands will always have more money to offer the players and they will always get the best players and that's ok, right? Right.
    But if these players are not found good enough and later become a hit playing for another country it's not fair to the countries listed above? Right? Right.
    Not racist? Right.
    If it makes you sleep better at night it's great but in my opinion you're all deluded and blindfolded if you don't see it as a racism.

  • Comment number 73.

    And Enzo Zidane story? I love it. It just proves my point. I really do hope he chooses to play for Spain after this scandal. And then for France if he's not good enough for Spain! Haha. That would be the icing on the cake!

  • Comment number 74.

    73. At 12:26p.m. 10th May 2011, patpit wrote:
    lol that would be class .
    After all this France could become the least like international side . mon dieu

    News just in its not racist to have qoutas based on race !!! mon dieu x2

  • Comment number 75.

    I would want anyone to tell me if Heaven or Hell has 'QOUTAS'

  • Comment number 76.

    Looking at the wider issues across a range of professions. A number of Doctors and Nurses trained in Africa migrate to Europe to support the healthcare infrastructures of UK and possibly France.

    We should accept the freedom of people to practice their professions wherever they could attract the best income and recognition. We are all citizens of this earth and should have inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness and welbeing footballers included.


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