FRANCE

French PM Valls: "France doesn't pick players on skin colour"

The French PM responded to the striker's claims of racism in Didier Deschamps' Euro 2016 squad. "Deschamps is beyond suspicion."

French PM Valls: "France doesn't pick players on skin colour"
LIONEL BONAVENTURE AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has responded to the ongoing racism row sparked by Didier Deschamps’ decision to omit Karim Benzema from the Les Bleus squad for Euro 2016, which prompted the Real Madrid forward to accuse the France coach of “bowing to pressure from a racist part of France.

France does not select its football players on the basis of skin colour or their place of origin,” Valls said, adding that Benzema’s accusation “does not paint an accurate picture of France.”

Speaking to assembled news agencies on Thursday, Valls said Deschamps, who has also faced similar allegations on the part of Eric Cantona, was beyond reproach.

“We have good players, there is a squad, there is the image of every player and there is a coach who makes the decisions. Everybody should be proud of their origins, but players are not picked on the basis of those origins, and Deschamps cannot be suspected of doing so,” Valls said.

The prime minister, who held Spanish nationality until he was 18 years old, alluded to the World Cup on French soil in 1998, which Les Bleus won. “More or less the same criticisms and the same commentaries were happening then, as much about the coach as the team, so I’m optimistic.”

In Valls’ view, that France side, known as the "black-blanc-beur" (black-white-arabic), served as a symbol of “hope and coexistence” and that eventually helped to bring France together in victory.

“I’m not the coach of France, Deschamps is, he was a formidable player who won everything and he’s also a very good coach, and he is the one who decides the squad.”