Regrets…Laurent Blancs had a few

Under-fire France coach Laurent Blanc tells a hearing he ‘regrets making certain opinions’ when discussing dual-nationality players at youth training centres.

Blanc confirmed to the joint hearing of the French Football Federation (FFF) and the Sports Ministry that the discussion had taken place on November 8 last year but he emphasised that the discussion did not concern him directly.

The enquiry has pointed the finger of responsibility for the manner in which the matter was discussed at Francois Blaquart, who has been suspended as national technical director, and also highlighted a lack of communication within the FFF.

Blanc returned to Bordeaux after the hearing in Paris, which was held at a top secret address.

Blanc was the last witness to be heard leaving Sports Ministry inspectors to write up their report, with Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno holding a press conference on Tuesday morning to give a presentation of the findings.

The two-pronged inquiry was launched after the Mediapart website ten days ago released a transcript of the meeting last November.

A number of players have come through French academies in recent years, and represented France at youth level, only to switch allegiances to the senior sides of different countries.

The report has caused huge controversy and created ruptures among the multi-racial France team that won the World Cup in 1998.

Several members of France’s 1998 squad have since spoken out about the affair including Zinedine Zidane, the iconic star of that side, who voiced his support for the beleagured Blanc.

Asked if Blanc’s words in the meeting were discriminatory, Zidane said, “No, and concerning Laurent, let’s be straight and clear: I know him well, of course he’s not racist.

“I’ll go even further…he never even thinks like that because it’s not an issue for him. I think that’s why he got drawn into a discussion like that.”

Lilian Thuram and Patrick Vieira have both strongly criticised Blanc, with Christophe Dugarry, Marcel Desailly, Bixente Lizarazu and World Cup winning coach Aime Jacquet rallying to his defence.

by Buford Balony

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