French football forgives Sagnol after racist remarks about Africans10 November 2014

FrenchProfessionalFootballLeaguePresidentFrédéricThiriezissuedastatementbackingWillySangol’sapologiesaftertheBordeauxcoachcausedanoutcryinFranceforsuggestingAfricanplayerslackintelligenceanddiscipline.

In the statement, Thiriez said: “After Sagnol’s mea culpa, who sincerely recognised how painful his words were, I consider the case closed.

“However, football still has work to do regarding the fight against racism, violence and all forms of discrimination. This is what we [the League] do and will continue to do with the help of organisations that support this fight.”

Thiriez words came after the Bordeaux coach publicly apologised for his remarks at a pre-match conference on Thursday (6 November), ahead of Saturday’s game with Lens.

At the conference Sagnol said: “If, by my lack of clarity, or my not perfect semantics, I shocked, humiliated or hurt people, then I am sorry.

“The interpretation that those may have made [of my words] does not reflect my way of thinking in any way, or my humanist convictions.”

Last week, French Football Federaction (FFF) President Noël Le Graët also commented on the case backing the former France international and considering it a case of “blunder” and not racism.

Sagnol moved to tears after Diabate hug
On Saturday’s (8 November) match, the former French international was mercilessly whistled by home fans as he walked onto the Lens pitch and later moved to tears when his team’s Malian striker Diabate scored the winning goal for Bordeaux and ran over to hug him.

On the gesture, Bordeaux keeper Cedric Carrasso said the coach had always had the support of the dressing room.

“The team believes in the coach and the team believes in the man. But he is only human and he can cry if he wants too,” he said.

Lens coach Antoine Kombouare, the only black manager on Ligue 1, who previously referred to Sagnol’s words as ‘humiliating’, said on the day: “We spoke on the phone and he heard me out and now the debate is closed. He must be suffering so we should all move on now,”.

“Willy is spreading serious prejudices” says Vieira
Despite the apparent willingness of the country’s football to forget the incident, former players, including Lilian Thuram and Louis Saha, football administrators, politicians and campaigners strongly critised the Bordeaux coach’s remarks and called for action.

Former France international and Sagnol’s teammate at he 2006 World Cup, Patrick Vieira wrote on Twitter: “We Africans are once again discredited and offended,

“Willy is spreading very serious prejudices and clichés about the African football player”.

FIFPro Afrique, the African division of the World Players’ Union, also condemned the remarks, while urging on football bodies to help tackle a behaviour that has been ‘tarnishing the sport’s image’.

“Once again, the African division of FIFPro condemns all forms of racism and xenophobia”.

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