French race row official rejects 'mole' accusation

The man who taped the meeting at the centre of the French football race row said on Wednesday that he was not responsible for leaking the recording to the media.

Updated: May 05, 2011 10:29 IST
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Paris: The man who taped the meeting at the centre of the French football race row said on Wednesday that he was not responsible for leaking the recording to the media.

Mohammed Belkacemi, France's national technical advisor for neighbourhood football, said he sent the only copy of the recording to the French Football Federation (FFF) the day after it was made.

"I explained everything to the inquiry," said Belkacemi.

"I recorded the meeting on November 8, 2010 to testify internally about unacceptable things that I had already heard before.

"I sent the only copy of the recording to the federation on November 9, 2010 to confirm my words."

The Mediapart website claimed last week that high-ranking French officials, including France coach Laurent Blanc, discussed introducing a quota to restrict the number of dual-nationality players coming through their national training programmes to 30 percent.

National technical director (DTN) Francois Blaquart, who is responsible for youth coaching policy in France, was suspended on Saturday but said that the plan had been "abandoned".

Belkacemi has been cast as "the mole" in the French media after details of his involvement in the affair emerged but he rejected the description.

"Since that date (November 9, 2010), the recording was no longer in my hands but in the possession of the federation, which has been confirmed in the hearings," he said.

"I therefore never gave the recording to a journalist. This media storm does not benefit me. I have no interest in this publicity. I have no interest in a public debate."

Belkacemi's revelation raises the possibility that the FFF knew about the existence of the recording well before it was made public by Mediapart, but FFF president Fernand Duchaussoy said that was not the case.

"Until Thursday evening, I had not at any moment been informed by anyone about the discussions that took place during the meeting on November 8, 2010 - much less about the existence of a recording," Duchaussoy said in a statement sent to AFP.

Sports minister Chantal Jouanno subsequently spoke out in support of Duchaussoy.

"Did the FFF know? Not the FFF in the sense of all its directors, but some of its directors," she said.

"I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the president of the FFF or the vice-president (Noel Le Graet)."

Earlier on Wednesday, Mediapart and the website of the Le Parisien newspaper speculated that Belkacemi had sent the recording to Andre Prevosto, who was then the joint-director general at the FFF.

Prevosto could not be contacted by AFP, while the FFF said they would not comment on the case until the outcome of their own internal investigation and one being conducted by France's sport ministry.

Both inquiries are expected to report their findings later this week.

Blanc, currently on holiday in Italy, will be among the officials questioned as part of the inquiries.

Blanc's former France team-mate Christophe Dugarry, now a television pundit, said he was worried the affair could see Blanc lose his position.

"I think that we're putting him in an enormously difficult position by thinking that we could sack him, because - watch out - he could quit," said Dugarry, who won the World Cup alongside Blanc in 1998.

"I think we have to remember what French football was like over these last four years (under Blanc's predecessor, Raymond Domemech)."

A number of players have come through French youth training centres in recent years, and represented France at youth level, only to switch allegiances to the senior sides of different countries.

They include Marouane Chamakh (Morocco), Sebastien Bassong (Cameroon), Moussa Sow (Senegal), Younes Belhanda (Morocco) and Ryad Boudebouz (Algeria).

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