By | May 5, 2011

The last few days have offered some new and crucial details in the story of racism at the French Football Federation. The initial reaction by those implicated, including Laurent Blanc, was to deny that they had said what Mediapart accused them of saying. But they rapidly backtracked, perhaps because they had realized that in fact the blog had access to a tape-recording of the entire meeting, from late 2010, in which the idea of the need for “quotas” aimed at limiting certain kinds of youth players was discussed. Yesterday, it came out that the person who had made the tape is Mohamed Belkacemi, an administrator at the FFF who was in charge specifically of the area of football in the “quartiers,” that is in the housing projects of the banlieue. In 2009 Belkacemi was honored for his work with under-privileged youth by the French state by being named a Knight of the National Order of Merit. Affectionately known by his colleagues as “Momo,” he was praised effusively, notably by the then head of the FFF, who described how his work had proven that football could have a “social role” and be a “marvelous” contribution to the lives of children in poorer neighborhoods.

A year later Belkacemi, embarked on another kind of heroism: that of whistle-blowing. Presumably alarmed by the tenor of previous comments in meetings, he decided to tape one of them. His goal was to bring the tape to higher ups within the FFF in order to get them to intervene. He claims he passed on the tape, but that no one did anything.

He did not, however, pursue the case, and declares he is not the one who passed on the tape to the media either. Mediapart got the tape somehow — they will not divulge through what source — and currently has a copy, which means that there is no real escape for the FFF from having to deal head-on with what was said. This is particularly embarassing for Blanc, who has denied any racist intent, but whose words about black players are particularly strong and revelatory. Naturally, officials are now trying to reverse the accusations, arguing that the leak of the tape of a private work meeting was illegal. But thanks to Belkacemi and whoever later leaked the tape, we have an archive of the way in which race and football were discussed by those who imagined no one outside would hear.

Category: France Racism

About Laurent Dubois

I am Professor of Romance Studies and History and the Director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics at Duke University. I founded the Soccer Politics blog in 2009 as part of a course on "World Cup and World Politics" taught at Duke University. I'm currently teaching the course under the title "Soccer Politics" here at Duke. My books include Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, 2010) and The Language of the Game: How to Understand Soccer (Basic Books, 2018)

2 thoughts on “Heroes?

  1. Pingback: Football Scholar Miscellany: A First Eleven | The Football Scholars Forum

  2. Elliott

    Cool stuff – I love how technology and the internet is shining a transparent light on these offensive “behind closed doors” comments.


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