Two black footballers chase the ball at the Marseille-Montpellier French League Cup final in Paris, 23 AprilFrance’s multi-ethnic football teams are a source of pride for many
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France’s Sports Minister, Chantal Jouanno, has asked the country’s football federation to clarify reports of a secret racial quota for trainees.

Senior federation members are said to have secretly approved limiting the number of black and Arab trainees to 30% from the age of 12-13.

The federation has denied having such a policy.

“Discrimination has no place in sport, whether it’s in the stands or in the training academies,” Ms Jouanno said.

She promised to uphold guarantees of equal opportunities in sport.

Race became a sensitive issue in French football again after the dire performance of the national team at last year’s World Cup in South Africa.

Controversial accusations circled in some quarters that the team, which had six black players, had mutinied in South Africa because of race.

The South Africa experience was in sharp contrast to 1998, when France fell head over heels in love with its multi-ethnic World Cup-winning team of “Blacks, Blancs, Beurs” – blacks, whites and Arabs.

The French investigative website Mediapart broke the story about a supposed secret quota on Thursday.

Quoting “scandalised” sources within the French Football Federation (FFF), it said the alleged directive from its National Technical Direction (DTN) had already been sent out to training academies.

Mediapart alleged that senior FFF members including national coach Laurent Blanc had approved the quota.

“The objective declared within the DTN, but undisclosable to the general public, is to limit – by filtering them right from the age of 12-13 – the number of French players of African and North African kind,” the website said.

“A genuine segregation applied to football.”

Commenting on the allegations, the sports minister said: “I take note of the French Football Federation’s denial about the existence of such a policy and I invite it to very quickly shed light on the allegations in the article”.

Philippe Tournon, media officer for the French national team, said Laurent Blanc was outraged by the allegation.

“[He] categorically denies that he could have supported selections based on ethnicity or skin colour,” Mr Tournon said.

“It goes against his philosophy.”

Since he took over from Raymond Domenech after the World Cup, Blanc has often raised the problem of players with dual nationality, who benefit from French training academies before choosing to play for another country, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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