Lilian Thuram: 'It's not because you're black that you run faster'

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FRENCH football star Lilian Thuram feels "hurt" that his former team mate Laurent Blanc and members of the French Football Federation (FFF) may have agreed to limit the number of black and Arab players in national training programmes.

French football has been plunged into turmoil after investigative website Mediapart reported that Blanc and senior figures in the federation, approved proposals to limit to 30 per cent the number of players of African and North-African descent in training academies once they reach 13 years of age.

"Of course you feel hurt, of course," Thuram said yesterday on French football show Telefoot. "You tell yourself that it's a perpetual (cycle) to always cast doubt on people with regards to their colour and religion."

Thuram played alongside Blanc and Zinedine Zidane in a team that became a national icon after winning the 1998 World Cup and European Championship in 2000, prompting politicians to hail its multi-ethnicity from the roof tops.

"Some people have short memories," Thuram said.

FFF technical director Francois Blaquart has been suspended pending an inquiry into the claims, which included a transcript of a conversation involving Blanc, Blaquart, under-21 coach Erick Mombaerts and under-20 coach Francis Smerecki in November.

Smerecki is the only one quoted as speaking out vehemently against the quota proposals, calling them "discriminatory."

Blanc maintains that those present were merely raising the issue of dual nationality that sees players profit from training academies funded by the FFF before opting out of their French nationality and deciding to play for the country of their origin.

"That 26 players out of 30 who go through (the national training academy at] Clairefontaine then join a (different] national team, does that not shock you?" Mombaerts told L'Equipe's website. "We've put together national infrastructures that serve others."

Thuram, who has campaigned against racism, feels French society still harbours long-standing prejudices.

"When will we understand that it's not because you're black that you run faster than someone else? It's not because you're black that you're less intelligent than someone else."

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