FRANCE

Benzema-France debate: Real Madrid stiker "should apologise" for calling "half of France racist"

As the Benzema-France topic has come up again during the current international break, French sporting personalities have weighed in on both sides of the debate.

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Benzema-France debate: Real Madrid stiker "should apologise" for calling "half of France racist"

Karim Benzema has not played with the French national team since 2015 for his alleged role in an attempted sex-tape blackmail case involving former France international Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema’s ongoing absence from France more than five years on since the emergence of the Valbuena case remains a hot topic that becomes more prominent during international breaks.

The 33-year-old is currently enjoying one of the best moments of his career at club level and his great performances for Real Madrid has prompted growing calls in his home country for the Lyon-born striker to be reinstated in the national squad.

Amid Benzema’s growing support, Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps continues to come under increasing pressure to explain his reasons for not recalling the Madrid striker. Aside from the criticism he has received for not summoning Benzema, he has also been slammed for the recent manner in which he responded to a question on such a sensitive issue.

France's head coach Didier Deschamps gives a press conference at the Astana Arena, in Nur-Sultan on March 27, 2021, on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D qualification football match between Kazakhstan and France.

Benzema-France situation no laughing matter - Micoud

Having been asked about the matter again by a local journalist at a press conference in Kazakhstan ahead of France’s 2-0 win over Kazakhstan on Sunday, Deschamps responded laughingly: “Even here? I'm sure a French journalist must have told you to ask that.”

The France head coach’s laughing response has not gone down well with former France international and proponent for Benzema’s reinstatement, Johan Micoud.

“It just makes him (Deschamps) laugh,” said Micoud in reference to the press conference incident in Kazakhstan.

“I find it terrible not to see Benzema with France again. It doesn't make me laugh at all. I don't understand why he (Deschamps) didn’t respond… Because he would also have to be annoyed when he is asked why the best French striker is not in the national team.”

Deschamps supporters on Benzema stance

Regarding his stance on Benzema, Deschamps still maintains strong support in France, including from sporting personalities like former rugby player, Vincent Moscato, who believes Benzema needs to apologise for allegedly calling “half of France” racist.

"Are we going to give the national team jersey to a guy who said that half of France is racist?" said Moscato. "Either he apologises or he will not play with the national team again.”

With Noël Le Graet still head of the French Federation, Deschamps has the organisation’s full backing regarding his position on Benzema. Deschamps has and will continue to enjoy the complete confidence of Le Graet after leading the country to its second World Cup title in 2018.

Benzema facing trial in Valbuena case in October

In January, prosecutors in Versailles confirmed that Benzema will stand trial for his alleged involvement in the Valbuena case. Benzema, who denies any wrongdoing, was charged in 2015 in relation to the incident. He previously appealed against the charge but is now set for trial, with proceedings schedule to start on 20 October of this year.