EURO 2016


Cantona laments omission of north African-origin players

The omission of Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the France squad for next month's European Championships is a missed opportunity to unite the country in the face of extremism and division, according to ex-international Eric Cantona.

Cantona laments omission of north African-origin players
Cantona won 45 caps for France between 1987 and 1995. Photo: AFP

Cantona stirred up a hornet's nest last week when he claimed that France coach Didier Deschamps was guilty of racial discrimination in his selection, comments that French football chief Noel Le Graet on Saturday dubbed as “stupid” and “pathetic”.

“In this time of trouble and division, I would have liked all of the France that I love and dream of be represented in this France team. Football for me is a fantastic way of integration and should serve to unify and unite,” Cantona said in a column published in Le Journal du Dimanche.

“We missed this chance by not selecting Benzema and Ben Arfa, two of the best French players.

“Firstly I think that from a sporting point of view it's a mistake and then, this European Championships, which moreover is in France, is an extraordinary opportunity to send a clear message to the extremists, whoever they might be.

“I'm neither linked to any party nor the puppet of any ideology,” he added. “I'm atheist. I am and always will be a free man.

“For those who'd like to make believe that I'm spouting anti-white racism, my response is one of contempt.”

Cantina, 50, told British daily The Guardian on Thursday that Deschamps had snubbed Benzema and Ben Arfa because of their “north African origins”.

Deschamps' lawyer said Friday that the France coach would be suing Cantona for slander over his comments.

Cantona, who won 45 caps for France between 1987 and 1995, has in the past been very critical of his former teammate Deschamps, who in 1996 he branded a “vulgar water carrier”.

The former Marseille and Manchester United striker retired in 1997 before taking up a career in cinema. In 2007 he married Franco-Algerian actress Rachida Brakni.

Deschamps, 47, went on to captain France to the 1998 World Cup title and 2000 European Championship crown.

The exclusion of Benzema, of Algerian descent, follows his implication in an alleged attempt by one of his friends to blackmail international teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.

Ben Arfa, of Tunisian origins, had been hopeful of making the squad after relaunching his career at Nice but instead had to settle for a place on Deschamps's standby list of eight players.


French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage

French prosecutors on Friday called for a 15-year prison sentence for one of two Russians accused of beating a British supporter during Euro 2016, an attack that left him with brain injuries.

French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage
Russian fans light flares at the match against England in 2016.. Photo: AFP

One prosecutor, Christophe Raffin, asked for the “legal maximum… between 14 and 15 years” for Pavel Kossov, who is accused of throwing the first punch at 55-year-old Andrew Bache.

Bache was injured in the violence that broke out before England played Russia in the southern French port city of Marseille on June 11th, 2016.

The second Russian on trial in Aix-en-Provence, Mikhail Ivkine, stands accused of throwing a chair at the victim, with prosecutors asking for a potential suspended sentence of up to five years.

He has claimed he was defending himself.

“No, it wasn't legitimate self-defence, it was illegitimate use of force against Andrew Bache,” Raffin said of the violence.


Police give emergency aid to Andrew Bache following clashes in the city of Marseille. Photo: AFP

The prosecutors said the Russians were part of a group of about 150 men, many with martial arts training, who wrought havoc in Marseille.

Bache, from Portsmouth in southern England, has no memory of the events and is too frail to attend the trial.

His son Harry, who nurses his father, is representing him in court.