Bacary Sagna hits out at 'stupid' Eric Cantona for accusing Didier Deschamps of racism
The Manchester City right-back Bacary Sagna has called Eric Cantona “stupid” for accusing France coach Didier Deschamps of racism for his omission of Karim Benzema, Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri from the Euro 2016 squad.
Sagna, 33, was speaking at the team’s headquarters at Clairefontaine, south of Paris, today and denied that there was any racial element to Deschamps’ selection.
Cantona made the allegation against Deschamps in an interview last month and Deschamps has threatened legal action over the remarks.
Sagna said: “It’s a choice, it’s free speech. It doesn’t matter what race you are - French, North African, Chinese – Deschamps is not a racist. The world is like this. He [Deschamps] is not a racist. I don’t think there are any problems. It is stupid of him [Cantona] to say such things just before the Euros are about to start. It’s just such a pity there are comments like this just before the Euros.”
Cantona said that Deschamps had implicitly considered the race of the three players when he made his choice.
“Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player,” Cantona told The Guardian.
“But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America.
“So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [Manuel] Valls [French prime minister] said he should not play for France.
"And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.”
It was the French football federation president Noel Le Graet who made the decision that Benzema would not be available in light of him being placed under criminal investigation for his part in the Mathieu Valbuena blackmail episode.
The Real Madrid striker said in an interview that Deschamps had “bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France” Sagna compared France’s situation, with the expectation around the team at a home tournament, to that of 1998 when Deschamps captained the World Cup-winning side.
He said that even then there were major doubts about the team’s capacity, as there are ahead of Friday’s opening game against Romania at the Stade de France.
Sagna said: “I remember a lot of the criticism of the French team. I remember that everybody had doubts about the team. That everyone was against the team and against the coach. The team was very strong though and they started the World Cup very well. I think we have to be inspired by what they did and the way they surprised everyone by winning the tournament.”