Ben­zema slams France coach

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

MADRID — France’s top scorer Karim Ben­zema ac­cused coach Di­dier Deschamps of bow­ing to pres­sure from a “racist” po­lit­i­cal party by not choos­ing him for the coun­try’s Euro 2016 squad.

The Real Madrid striker, who is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated over an al­leged sex-tape black­mail case, ques­tioned whether Deschamps left him out be­cause of his Al­ge­rian de­scent.

The com­ments echo sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions from French leg­end Eric Can­tona, who last week said Deschamps had ex­cluded Ben­zema and Hatem Ben Arfa be­cause of their North African her­itage - draw­ing a threat of le­gal ac­tion from the coach’s lawyer.

Ben­zema told Spanish daily Marca that Deschamps “bowed to pres­sure from a racist French party” in his se­lec­tion, ref­er­enc­ing the re­cent elec­toral suc­cess of France’s far-right Na­tional Front.

“I do not know if this de­ci­sion was only down to Di­dier, be­cause I get along with him, with the pres­i­dent (of the French Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion, Noel Le Graet) and ev­ery­one,” he said.

Ben­zema was sus­pended from in­ter­na­tional duty in De­cem­ber over a le­gal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an al­leged at­tempt by one of his friends to black­mail his team-mate Mathieu Val­buena over a sex tape.

France’s lead­ing goal-scorer faces up to five years in jail over ac­cu­sa­tions he en­cour­aged Val­buena to pay the black­mail­ers.

“They said I can­not be se­lected, fine. But on a sport­ing level, I don’t un­der­stand why,” he said.

“At a le­gal level, I am still in­no­cent un­til proven guilty. They should wait un­til the jus­tice sys­tem has made its de­ci­sion.”

Ben­zema re­mains France’s top striker, with 27 goals in 81 ap­pear­ances, de­spite the emer­gence of the younger An­toine Griez­mann and An­thony Mar­tial.

His path to the French Euro 2016 squad was cleared when le­gal re­stric­tions stop­ping him play­ing on the same team as Val­buena were lifted.

But French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls and other politi­cians have op­posed any re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion while the sex-tape in­quiry goes on.

“The only per­son who knows what hap­pened in this af­fair, who knows the truth, is Val­buena,” Ben­zema told Marca.

“He played a role, he has not told the truth. I wanted to help him, noth­ing more, and the whole thing blew up in my face.”

The ex­clu­sion of Ben Arfa and Ben­zema from the na­tional squad has caused waves in France, which is strug­gling with racial ten­sions af­ter two deadly ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris.

Ben Arfa, of Tu­nisian ori­gin, 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.

Adding to the con­tro­versy, Can­tona said in fresh com­ments pub­lished in Le Jour­nal du Di­manche that with­out the two play­ers, the squad does not re­flect the France he loves.

Deschamps has re­fused to com­ment on Can­tona’s ac­cu­sa­tions, al­though his lawyer last week said he planned to take le­gal ac­tion.

FFF pres­i­dent Graet dis­missed Can­tona’s ini­tial com­ments as “stupid” and “pa­thetic”.

— AFP

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