Real Madrid striker, Karim Benzema, said he was denied the chance to play for France in the Euro 2016 this month because of his Algerian origins, reports Reuters.
The French Football Federation denied the accusation, but Benzema’s comments, published just nine days before France hosts the tournament, have deepened a row about alleged racism in a national team once seen as a model for ethnic integration.
Last week, Eric Cantona accused coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football†player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.
Deschamps’ lawyer said he planned to sue Cantona for slander. The two have a longstanding rivalry since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France’s captain and led the team to World Cup and Euro successes in 1998 and 2000.
Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, something Prime Minister Manuel Valls said made him unfit to play for the national team. Benzema said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.
They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,î he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.