Francois Hollande is to visit France’s football squad on Sunday with the president hoping to give ‘Les Bleus’ a boost ahead of Friday’s Euro 2016 curtain raiser against Romania.
The nation plays host to the month long football extravaganza with 1.5 million visitors expected amid a dreary backdrop of floods, fears of terror attacks, transport strikes and street demonstrations.
“I’m going there to tell them I trust them, I trust their coach Didier Deschamps, and the football federation,” said Hollande, himself a keen football fan who will be at the Stade de France on Friday for the opening match.
“They have to play their best football but they also have to remember that they represent France,” he told Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche evoking the “Benzema affair”.
France brushed aside Scotland 3-0 on Saturday in their final warm up game and the win helped distance the team from the recent row after ousted striker Benzema claimed he was a victim of racism.
The Real Madrid forward accused Deschamps of bowing to “pressure from a racist part of France”, after being left out due to an ongoing sextape blackmail investigation in which he is accused of involvement.
But Hollande dismissed Benzema’s comments.
“You get chosen for the France team because you are a good player, not because of the region you come from or your origin,” he insisted.
“The players need to concentrate on the tournament now and forget about the rest and not let it all disturb them.”
Hollande also confirmed he would be travelling to Rio in August for the Olympic Games in order to support French athletes and Paris’ 2024 Games hosting bid.