Karim Benzema blames anti-Arab racism for Euro '16 exclusion

Karim Benzema blames anti-Arab racism for Euro '16 exclusion
The Real Madrid striker unleashed a new storm of controversy by saying French coach Didier Deschamps had “bowed to pressure from a racist part of France”
2 min read
02 June, 2016
The footballer's comments have triggered a new row over alleged racism in French football [Getty]
Algerian-French football star Karim Benzema has claimed he was excluded from playing for France in the Euro 2016 tournament this month because of his Arab origins.

The French Football Federation denied the accusation, according to Reuters.

Benzema is France’s top scorer with 27 goals in 81 appearances, but even if selected for Euro 2016, it’s unlikely he would have been first choice forward ahead of the in-form Antoine Griezmann

But the race controversy is a blow so close to the start of the tournament in France on June 10.

Last week, former French footballer Eric Cantona accused the national team's coach coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.

Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, but he said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.

“They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,” he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.

“Deschamps succumbed to pressure from a racist part of France,” he said.

The current French national team's lineup has players from various ethnicities, including Adil Rami, who is of Moroccan origin.

"But memories of 1998, when France’s “black-blanc-beur” [black-white-Arab] team won the World Cup," said Reuters, "have faded, especially since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the players fell out with the team’s managers."

At the time, the far-right National Front Party complained that the football team did not fully reflect France, where the vast majority are still white.

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard has since dismissed Benzema’s accusations as “unjustified” and “unacceptable.”

“The French team is selected only on technical criteria and ability. There is not an inch of racism in this federation. The time has come to stand by our team,” Braillard told BFM TV.