Paris – France coach Didier Deschamps said he will “never forget” Karim Benzema’s accusation that the decision to omit the striker from the Euro 2016 squad was giving in to “a racist part of France”.
Deschamps told a French radio station yesterday that the episode had left a painful “stain”.
Benzema, 33, made 81 international appearances but has not been selected for his country since 2015 when his alleged involvement in a blackmail attempt linked to a sex tape featuring his former France teammate Mathieu Valbuena came to light.
French prosecutors said earlier this month that Benzema is to face trial as an accomplice.
Benzema told Spanish media that “Deschamps gave in under pressure from a racist section of France” in June 2016, two days before the coach’s Breton residence was vandalised with graffiti calling him “racist”.
“It’s a stain,” Deschamps said yesterday in an interview on RTL.
“Even if with time it calms down a bit, I can’t forget. It’s not just about Karim Benzema. There are statements by other people too that have led to this violent act, which affects my family.”
Hosts France reached the final of Euro 2016, losing to Portugal, but Deschamps led Les Bleus to victory in the 2018 World Cup.
He said yesterday that he accepts all criticism of his “selections as coach” but “that’s crossing the white line here. It affects my name, my family. For me, it’s unacceptable,” Deschamps said.
“Making certain statements inevitably leads to verbal or physical aggression. I suffer the consequences. You can’t forget. I can’t forget. I will never forget,” he said.
On the eve of the Euros, Eric Cantona, who played for France alongside Deschamps, told British newspaper the Guardian that Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa were not selected because of their “north African origins”.
Deschamps sued for defamation in France. A Paris court in December threw out the suit because of the way the complaint was drafted.
The coach’s lawyer said that Deschamps has appealed.
Benzema and four other men will stand trial in the blackmail case at a date yet to be decided.
The Real Madrid striker described the trial as a “farce” in an Instagram post. — AFP