Belfast Telegraph

Leboeuf: my old France captain Deschamps is not a racist

By Declan Warrington

Frank Leboeuf has defended Didier Deschamps over Eric Cantona’s suggestion that race played a factor in his selection of France’s Euro 2016 squad.

The retired defender has revealed, however, that he warned his former international captain the make-up of his squad would leave him open to criticism.

After the France manager overlooked Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa, Cantona said: “(They) are two of the best players in France and will not play. And their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

“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.”

Deschamps, a long-term adversary of Cantona, has not responded but his lawyer has spoken of their plans to sue the ex-Manchester United star, who denied labelling him a racist.

Leboeuf said: “I was appalled by what he said, because I know Didier well. Saying his name’s a bit too French... my name’s very French and I’m not racist.

“The thing that Didier might be racist, it’s bad, because his best friend is Marcel Desailly — Marcel is black — one of his best friends is Zinedine Zidane, and Zinedine comes from Algeria.

“I said to Didier, before they made the (squad), ‘If you don’t take somebody (of North African descent) you might have a problem’. Because some of our compatriots won’t recognise themselves in the team. Nobody really reacted to that matter.

“Suddenly Eric made a comment. And then Benzema did his article, saying he didn’t think Deschamps was a racist but he listened to a section of racist people in France, which is untrue.”

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