Uproar over Racial Quotas in French Football

By Gemma Mcdonald | May 6th, 2011 4 Comments

An investigative report by the Mediapart website revealed that numerous managers of the National Technical Directorate (DTN) and the French Football Federation (FFF) approved the “principle of discriminatory quotas” in November 2010. Their objective? To limit the number of players of West African and North African origin.

According to Mediapart, Laurent Blanc — manager of Les Bleus — would have played an active role in those discussions. It is alleged that Blanc highlighted the problem of players who spend three years in training in France and later go abroad to wear other teams’ jerseys. “Something like that cannot not create problems, it applies to the Latin Americans as well,” said Philippe Tournon, press officer of the national team.

At the heart of the problem, the report claims, is growing dissatisfaction among French managers, coaches, and administrators about players who are trained in France, develop into potential national team stars, and who then instead choose — for whatever reason — to represent another country thanks to their double citizenship. “The fact is, there is a large presence of bi-national players at the junior level,” said Fernand Duchaussoy, FFF President, “and some of them later do not want to be part of the national French team.” FIFA rules allow a player with double citizenship to play for a junior national team in one country and still go on to play for another country’s senior national team.

In response to the uproar that followed these revelations, Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno suspended FFF technical director Francois Blaquart, the author of a “quota chart” published on Thursday (May 5) by Mediapart. The explosive issue of racial quotas in French football is embedded in wider debates about immigration, race, and national identity in contemporary France. As Laurent Dubois puts it in Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France, “When a team takes to the field, the fans say, ‘They are us, and we are them.’ But sometimes that can also force a question: ‘Who are they? And who are we?'”

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Solomon Waliaula

May 6th, 2011 | 12:49 pm    

This race quota issue is very intriguing! Am inclined to think that when a European youth programme trains players, it ideally nourishes the ‘football academy’ at large, which cuts across race, nationality, religious belief and so on. These players also ‘practice’ their profession across the globe. It is in this way that football can be properly termed as a world sport!

John Harpham

May 7th, 2011 | 8:42 am    

Although this development is not surprising, given the often xenophobic anger that surrounded the French team’s demise last summer, it is peculiarly unsuitable as a strategy to re-build the national team in France.

First, there is the bitter irony that the complaint of many fans last summer that the national team had too many bi-national, black or Arab, players, while the stated premise of the quotas is that too many bi-national players are choosing to play for other national teams. Which is it? And second, there is the historical fact that the rise of French soccer at the developmental, club and national levels coincided not with the tightening of discriminatory policies but with the lifting of quotas in the 1980s and 1990s.

On the one hand, it is a convincing argument that France–like Spain seems to have done–needs to work harder to cultivate young stars born in the country–although of course you have to realize, in saying that, that this demographic includes the children of recent immigrants of whatever race. And I think it is reasonable that there is a resentment among some in the FFF about players who come to France for their entire football formation, only to leave it when it comes time to play for a national team.

But on the other hand, when it comes to soccer in a complex nationality like France, discrimination is clearly not the way forward. This is true as a matter of football strategy: you want to have the best players possible; and if you are losing them to other nations, you should look at the attractiveness of your own national climate rather than cut yourself off to talent. But it is also true as a matter of political symbolism. Football in France is about more than just sport, and the racist attitudes that underpin the arguments for quotas are just not acceptable in the light of day in the 21st century.


May 12th, 2011 | 11:21 pm    

Rights…every player has rights i guess! think of accepting a position on a National team with very talented players competing for the same position and for every game you start on the bench (thats if you are given chance to show up for that game). Now players will trade such circumstances for team that will accord them on the first 11. Note that this is besides Racial factors!


May 17th, 2011 | 6:53 pm    

Interesting take on this awful mess over at Laurent Dubois’s Soccer Politics blog:


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