Deschamps pressured by racists - Benzema

2016-06-01 17:14
Karim Benzema (Getty)

Paris - Karim Benzema claimed racism was behind his non-selection for France's Euro 2016 squad in an interview the Real Madrid striker gave to Spanish daily Marca on Wednesday, but his comments were slammed by French officials who came to the defense of coach Didier Deschamps.

The French football federation said Benzema was unpickable because he is under investigation over an alleged sex-tape blackmail case.

But Benzema insists that Deschamps, who was capatain of France's 1998 World Cup winning team, had "bowed to pressure from a racist part of France" in his selection process.

Benzema, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, is a world class centre forward who has played six seasons at Real Madrid and is widely considered to be France's top striker.

Last December however a legal investigation into an alleged attempt by one of Benzema's friends to blackmail fellow France international Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape saw immediate calls for the Real Madrid star to be left out of the France set up.

It could be worse for Benzema as he faces up to five years in jail over accusations he encouraged Valbuena to pay the blackmailers.

"France will realise it has been unfair to me," Benzema said.

"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 went on to insist that Deschamps and the French federation, with whom he says he enjoys good relations, had been pressured into leaving him out by outside influences.

"I'm convinced that is what has happened," he said.

"I got left out of the 2010 World Cup squad but this is much harder," he admitted.

His path to the French Euro 2016 squad was at one time cleared when legal restrictions stopping him playing were lifted and it seemed he would make the squad after all.

But then tough-talking French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and other politicians began to oppose 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 French football federation head Noel Le Graet has been relatively supportive of the player.

"I rather like Karim Benzema, and this hasn't changed my opinion, but he's let himself go a bit to far here," Le Graet said.

"Benzema is not suspended for life. We'll do without him for the Euro, and after that well see," he said

"Didier (Deschamps) is on top form, he's a tough guy."

Patrick Kanner the French Sports Minister sympathised with Benzema's predicament but rejected any attack on the national coach with just nine days to go before the start of the France hosted Euro 2016.

"I can understand Mr Benzema's disappointment but under no circumstances are his statements acceptable regarding what he said about Mr Deschamps' sporting decisions nor his personality," Kanner said.

"I call for calm, I would like us to concentrate on the competition and would ask everyone to get behind 'the Blues' (the French team) which is what the 23 squad members will be expecting of us. So let's stop this non-debate," he insisted.

Socialist Party parliamentarian Benoit Hamon told France's Europe 1 radio station Wednesday that Benzema was: "right to say we are in a country where racism is on the rise." But he insisted there was no evidence of Deschamps being a racist.

Franois Fillon who was Prime Minister for five years between 2007-2012 and who is hoping to run in the next presidential election rejected Benzema's position out of hand.

"I can't stand for that!"

"Forever bringing the nation's problems down to questions of race, religion and ethnic communities, it's unhealthy," he said.


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