According to former France defender Lilian Thuram, players on the national team have “awakened the underlying racism in society” with their strike at the World Cup.
Thuram, who said that France captain Patrice Evra should never play for the team again after the players boycotted a training session in South Africa, told Saturday's L'Equipe newspaper that the strike had a calamitous effect on French public opinion.
Thuram said French people could now easily make a “shortcut” and think that “all the problems result from the fact that there are too many blacks in the France team.”
Thuram, a World Cup and European championship winner with France in 1998 and 2000 who is now a French federation official, added that only the players “who ignited the move should be punished.”
France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan said last week that all the players decided to strike to protest. It was against forward Nicolas Anelka's exclusion from the squad following an expletive-filled tirade directed at national coach Raymond Domenech during halftime of the 0-2 loss to Mexico.
“It's too easy to say afterwards that all the players were together,” he said. “This is not true. Some are keeping silent about it but are victims of the situation. To say that everybody was okay with it is obviously the leaders' strategy.”
Outgoing federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes has launched an investigation into the players' actions. Escalettes said that investigators will be allowed to question players, staff members and federation officials who were in South Africa. The commission should deliver its conclusions to the federation by Aug. 15.
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