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WORLD CUP

French minister blasts racist Russian chants against France’s black players

France's sports minister has condemned the "inadmissible" monkey chants aimed at French players during the international friendly against Russia in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Russia will host the World Cup in three months time.

French minister blasts racist Russian chants against France's black players
Photo: AFP

France's sports minister has condemned the “inadmissible” monkey chants aimed at French players Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele during the international friendly against Russia in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Laura Flessel, a former two-time Olympic champion in fencing, posted a message on her Twitter account on Wednesday.

“Racism has no place on the football pitch,” she said.

“We have to take action together on a European and international level to bring an end to this inadmissible behaviour.”

During the second half of France's 3-1 victory over Russia, an AFPphotographer heard monkey chants aimed at Barcelona winger Dembele, while
internet users claimed to have heard Manchester United midfielder Pogba targeted.

A spokesperson for FIFA said t was gathering “the possible evidence relating to the discriminatory incidents reported by the media” from the match.

However, FIFA said it did not want “to comment before evaluating the available information”.

FIFA is waiting for a report from the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) anti-discriminatory body, which was present at the stadium.

Neither the players nor the French team management, approached by AFP, commented on the allegations, while Russian authorities said on Wednesday they hadn't heard anything but were prepared to look into it.

“If this information is confirmed, then of course we will study both the video replay and everything else that happened around the match,” the Russian Football Union's security committee head Vladimir Markin was quoted as saying by Sport Express

“And after that, we will give our assessment.”

But his RFU security council colleague Alexei Tolkachyov stressed they had heard nothing.

“If necessary, we are ready to study this episode. But I will repeat — we did not record anything of the kind,” Tolkachyov was quoted as saying.

Russia is under the microscope as it will host the World Cup from June 14 to July 15.

The country has also come under scrutiny after the International Olympic Committee banned Russia from last month's Winter Games in South Korea over a state-sponsored doping programme that reached its zenith at the Sochi Olympics four years ago. 

Seven World Cup matches will be held in Saint Petersburg's 68,000-capacity stadium, including a semi-final.

Russian football has long been blighted by the scourge of racist chanting from the terraces and world football's governing body FIFA says it is closely monitoring the situation in the country.

The Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) anti-discrimination network reported 89 racist and far-right incidents at Russian games in the 2016/17 season.

Most recently, Spartak Moscow were hit with a suspended stadium ban by the Russian Football Union over almost a minute of racist chanting directed at Lokomotiv Moscow's Brazilian goalkeeper Guilherme Marinato earlier this month.

FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

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