Deschamps to sue Cantona over race claims

France manager Didier Deschamps (above) has a Euro 2016 squad that includes a mix of players from various ethnic origins, including defenders Patrice Evra and Adil Rami, and midfielder N'Golo Kante.
France manager Didier Deschamps (above) has a Euro 2016 squad that includes a mix of players from various ethnic origins, including defenders Patrice Evra and Adil Rami, and midfielder N'Golo Kante.

PARIS • Didier Deschamps, the manager of the French national football team, will file a legal complaint against Eric Cantona, after his former national team-mate suggested the squad selection for Euro 2016 was racially motivated.

The two men, who played 34 times together for France, have a history of animosity since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France's captain. He went on to lead the team to World Cup and European Championship successes in 1998 and 2000.

In an interview with British daily The Guardian on Thursday, former Manchester United star Cantona questioned the motives of omitting striker Karim Benzema and forward Hatem Ben Arfa, both of North African origin, from the final squad of 23.

"Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player," Cantona told The Guardian.

"But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody.

"So I'm not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after (France's Prime Minister Manuel) Valls said he should not play for France.

"And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that."

Noel le Graet, the head of the French Football Federation (FFF), immediately described the comments as "ridiculous".

Deschamps' lawyer, Carlos Brusa, told French sports daily L'Equipe and news channel BFMTV that he was launching proceedings against Cantona to penalise "the unacceptable slanderous and defamatory statements that harm Mr Deschamps' integrity".

Despite Cantona's claims, the 23-member squad includes a mix of players from various ethnic origins.

Defender Patrice Evra was born in Senegal, midfielder N'Golo Kante is of Malian descent and Adil Rami is of Moroccan origin.

Benzema was not picked after his ban for his involvement in an alleged blackmail scandal was upheld by the FFF in April.

Ben Arfa is among eight reserves that could yet be called up for the tournament if a player among the 23 gets injured.

Cantona, who is known for his controversial outbursts, once described Deschamps as "the water-carrier" - suggesting that his sole role was to pass the ball to better players.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Deschamps to sue Cantona over race claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe