Bacary Sagna has dismissed Eric Cantona and Karim Benzema’s allegations of racism surrounding the selection of France’s Euro 2016 squad by coach Didier Deschamps.
Benzema, who was not selected by Deschamps, made headlines last month when he said that the coach had “bowed to a racist part of France” by not choosing him, suggesting his Algerian heritage played a part in his non-selection as opposed to his ongoing involvement in an investigation into the alleged blackmail of fellow exiled international Mathieu Valbuena.
Former France international Cantona had already made such allegations which Deschamps denied and promised to return fire with legal action against the ex-Manchester United star.
“Benzema is a great player. [Hatem] Ben Arfa is a great player,” Cantona said last month.
“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.”
A number of France’s European Championship squad have moved to defend Deschamps, with Patrice Evra and Morgan Schneiderlin among them, and Sagna was the latest to join them when speaking to the media on Wednesday, expressing his disappointment that such controversy has once again disrupted the team’s preparation for a major tournament.
“The head coach needed to take some decisions. I am here today but a lot are not,” Sagna said. “I’m a black man, some are from Maghreb, others are French, some are French, the world is like this.
“I don’t think there is racism. I don’t think there is an issue today.
“Now it’s a shame that [Cantona’s] comments happened before the Euro. It’s a shame that it happens each time before the French national team gets together. It happens quite often. It’s really a shame.
“We want to respond to everything by winning it.”
And with such a strong squad – even without Benzema and Valbuena – not to mention a home tournament, the Manchester City full-back says there is a great excitement around the squad and indeed the country.
“We made a good competition [at the World Cup in] 2014. It has brought a great excitement within the fans,” he said. “We felt how happy they were and that the public wants us to win. We want to do it again.
“We’re home. We know that the pressure will be different. We are ready for it and we are aware of the 7 finals ahead of us.
“First we worry about Friday. Then we’ll see what we have to work on.”