Karim Benzema says he is victim of racism

Source: http://fr.reuters.com/article/idFRKCN0YN3J7

 

June 2, 2016

 

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema said he was denied the chance to play for France in the Euro 2016 this month because of his Algerian origins.

 

The French Football Federation denied the accusation, but Benzema’s comments, published just nine days before France hosts the tournament, have deepened a row about alleged racism in a national team once seen as a model for ethnic integration.

 

Last week, Eric Cantona accused coach Didier Deschamps of omitting Benzema and another French-born football player of North African descent, Hatem Ben Arfa, because of their foreign roots.

 

Deschamps’ lawyer said he planned to sue Cantona for slander. The two have a longstanding rivalry since the mid-1990s when Deschamps replaced Cantona as France’s captain and led the team to World Cup and Euro successes in 1998 and 2000. Benzema is under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate, something Prime Minister Manuel Valls said made him unfit to play for the national team. Benzema said his legal problems were being used as an excuse to drop him from the squad.

 

“They said I couldn’t be picked, but on a sporting level I don’t understand and, on a legal level, I’ve not been convicted and I’m presumed innocent,” he told Spanish sports magazine Marca.

“Deschamps succumbed to pressure from a racist part of France,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s only Didier’s decision, because I get on well with him, the president (of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet) and everybody.”

 

Deschamps was not immediately available for comment. Le Graet said Deschamps was neither for nor against Benzema and had previously picked the forward even when he was not in good form.

 

“I think he has got carried away a little bit,” Le Graet told reporters at the French team’s training camp in Austria.

 

“I would have liked him to have been a bit more kind. These are words that don’t correspond with the realities.”

 

The racism row has added to tensions in a country hit by widespread strikes over proposed changes to work contracts and fears about terrorist attacks.

Ahead of the European Championship’s June 10 kick-off, the French team has also been hit by a spate of injuries.

 

The squad has players from various ethnicities. Deschamps last week called up Adil Rami, who is of Moroccan origin. But memories of 1998, when France’s “black-blanc-beur” (black-white-Arab) team won the World Cup, have faded, especially since the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa when the players fell out with the team’s managers.

 

At the time, the far-right National Front party complained that the team did not fully reflect France, where the vast majority are still white.

 

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard dismissed Benzema’s comments as “unjustified” and “unacceptable.”

 

“The French team is selected only on technical criteria and ability. There is not an inch of racism in this federation. The time has come to stand by our team,” Braillard told BFM TV.

 

A successful striker for Real Madrid, Benzema has often failed to excel for the national team, scoring 27 goals in 81 games at international level

Ramadan Poses Test to Muslim Players at World Cup

June 27, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO — Down the quiet, tree-lined Rua Gonzaga Bastos, less than half a mile from Estádio do Maracanã, the custodian of this city’s only mosque was preparing for the busiest time of the year.

Mohamed Zeinhom Abdien, the custodian, was sitting at a desk opposite messy piles of boxes containing thousands of leaflets about Islam written in Portuguese, English and Arabic.

The observance of Ramadan, one of Islam’s five pillars, is a religious obligation in which Muslims fast and forgo any liquids from dawn until dusk over the course of a month. The month begins Saturday night, and Abdien’s usually quiet mosque has been inundated with newcomers.

“Normally we have 100, maybe 150 people here every Friday to pray, after the imam gives the call to prayer in Portuguese,” said Abdien, an Egyptian-born tour guide who moved to Rio 21 years ago.

“But the World Cup,” he said, spreading his arms at the dozens of boxes, “it means there have been many Algerian fans, TV presenters, even a few players.”

This World Cup in Brazil has drawn thousands of Muslim fans — from Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria and beyond — and Ramadan, which is pegged to a lunar calendar and begins a bit earlier in the Gregorian calendar each year, is due to start just as the second round opens.

The month, however, should be more complicated for the dozens of Muslim players still in the tournament, including the French striker Karim Benzema and Germany’s Mesut Özil. With the humidity and high temperatures in Brazil, especially along the northern coast and in the Amazon, an inability to stay hydrated would appear to put those players, and the teams featuring Muslims, like Algeria, at a disadvantage in the knockout stage.

Still, “we know very little,” said Ron Maughan, a professor of sports nutrition at Loughborough University in England.

Maughan led a working group that examined the effects of fasting on athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, the last time Ramadan coincided with a major sporting event. He found that fasting had an effect on athletes competing in the events requiring the greatest strain, like the marathon, but that the impact was relatively small over all.

The Swiss team has several Muslim players, including Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored a hat trick in his team’s 3-0 win over Honduras, which earned it a place in the knockout stage. A team spokesman said that it had made no special provision for Ramadan and that none of its players would fast until after the tournament.

The French team acknowledged that Ramadan had caused a debate among its players.

French spies plotted to assassinate Abu Hamza on streets of London

November 25, 2013

 

French spies planned to assassinate the extremist preacher Abu Hamza on a London street after they grew frustrated with Britain’s failure to deal with him, it has been claimed. According to a major investigation by the organisation HOPE Not Hate, French intelligence services dubbed the UK capital “Londonistan” because of a growing reputation for harbouring Europe’s Muslim fundamentalists.

Seeking to take advantage of the fear surrounding the London nail bombings by the neo-Nazi militant David Copeland, security officials from Britain’s European neighbour hatched a plot to kill the cleric and blame it on the far-right extremist group Combat 18. Spies got as far as identifying the weapons they would use to mimic those favoured by the organisation, and would have sent Hamza faked death threats pretending to be from the group. It is not clear why the plans were not carried out.

In a completely separate earlier plot, the French spying network Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) contemplated kidnapping Hamza from his West London home, putting him in a ferry and moving him to France. Those plans came amid fears that Algerian terrorists were going to target the 1998 football World Cup in France.

Reports of the two plots come from the extensive investigation entitled “Gateway to Terror” and published today by the HOPE Not Hate group. It looks into the influence of the now-banned al-Muhajiroun group and its links to Hamza and the British Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/french-spies-plotted-to-assassinate-abu-hamza-on-streets-of-london-8961725.html

Woolwich murder probe: suspect Michael Adebolajo held in Kenya in 2010

One of the suspects in the Woolwich murder case was arrested in Kenya in 2010, the Foreign Office has confirmed. It said Michael Adebolajo was arrested there and it gave consular assistance “as normal” in the circumstances. He was believed to have been preparing to fight with Somali militant group al-Shabab, a Kenyan government spokesman told the BBC, and was later deported. Confirmation of Michael Adebolajo’s arrest in Kenya in 2010 -preparing, according to the Kenyan authorities, to train and fight in Somalia – raises troubling questions. British security officials have had long-standing concerns about the risk of young men travelling to join the militant group, al-Shabab, and returning to pose a danger on the streets of the UK.

Earlier this month, when David Cameron hosted a conference on Somalia he said the challenges of terrorism and extremism “matter to Britain – and to the whole international community.”

So you might have expected Michael Adebolajo to have been firmly on the radar of the security services when he returned to the UK. They will now be under renewed pressure over exactly what they knew about him, and whether more could have been done to prevent the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby.

Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab is affiliated to al-Qaeda and is thought to have 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. It killed 76 people in a double bomb attack in Uganda as they watched the 2010 World Cup.

French Football Association investigates ‘Race Quota’

News Agencies – May 3, 2011

An investigation has begun into claims France football coach Laurent Blanc and other coaches discussed informal quotas limiting black and Arab youth players’ involvement in the national set-up.
Technical director Francois Blaquart, one of those to be questioned, is suspended pending the probe’s outcome. Blaquart and Blanc have said their comments were taken out of context. News sources claimed that Blaquart proposed secretly limiting the proportion of black and North African players to 30% at certain regional youth training centres, including the renowned Clairefontaine facility.
Blanc is alleged to have agreed with the plan in order to promote players with “our culture, our history”. The story has provoked reaction amongst ex-France internationals. Former defender Lilian Thuram, a team-mate of Blanc’s in the 1998 World Cup winning team, has spoken of his shock at the idea of quotas, while Basile Boli said it was “impossible” to support Blanc.

French Football Star Accuses French National Team of Racism and Islamophobia

News Agencies – December 7, 2010

Chelsea football player Nicolas Anelka has accused French football of effective racism following the treatment of some of the country’s World Cup flops this season. When Anelka faced Marseille in September 2010 he was jeered throughout, leading the forward to suggest there was more to the treatment of some of the World Cup squad than met the eye.

“In difficult moments, we see what people really think. They said ‘Franck Ribery hit Yoann Gourcuff; Gourcuff is a good French boy, Ribery is a Muslim. It went too far. When the France team does not win, then immediately people start to talk about religion and race.”

And the striker, who received an 18-game ban from the national team for his part in the World Cup problems, revealed he was not very patriotic about his homeland and he would rather quit the team than sing the national anthem. “I am not ‘made in France’ – that is the place where I have had nothing but trouble.

Virginia Man to Appear in Court on Terror Charges

By Joshua Rhett Miller

A Virginia man accused of trying to join a Somali terror group linked to Al Qaeda will return to court Friday. Zachary Adam Chesser, 20, of Oakton, Va., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Thursday to face charges that he provided material support to Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based terror organization that claimed responsibility for the bombing that killed 74 people in Uganda during the World Cup earlier this month.

French insults of World Cup team seen through racial and religious prism

Impostors. Arrogant. Money-hungry idiots. The insults aimed at France’s World Cup team have
been venomous following its drama-plagued early elimination from the international tournament.
Passionate hand-wringing at the humiliating fall of the team that won the 1998 World Cup can
be expected from dismayed French fans. But some worry that the tirades against the ethnically-
and religiously-mixed team are being too often seen through a racial prism, even if that’s not the
intent.
Members of the largely black team have been compared to “gang bosses” and “hoodlums” and
said to be disrespectful of France — terms often used to slur residents of the country’s minority-
and immigrant-filled suburban ghettoes. As a result, many say that such commentary sparks
racial hatred. The current attacks against the team can “encourage prejudice,” and “liberate racist
speech,” said the general director of the advocacy group SOS Racism, Guillaume Ayne.
On French radio, philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said the players represent the “spirit of the cité,”
a term used for ghettoized housing projects, which he said are “devouring” French society.

Germany’s Team for South Africa: The Multicultural Squad

Of the 23 players representing Germany at the World Cup, 11 have foreign backgrounds. More than half of the outfield players selected by Joachim Loew were either born outside Germany themselves, or have a non-German parent. The squad has roots in eight different countries — nine when Germany’s included.

According to the most up-to-date figures from the Federal Statistics Office, one in five people living in Germany in 2008 was of foreign descent. From the total of 15.9 million with roots abroad, 2.9 million were from Turkey. Two likely starters for the national team at the World Cup — Serdar Tasci and Mesut Oezil — both have Turkish parents. “A gift for German football,” was how Joachim Loew described Oezil. It works both ways. The sport plays a leading role in a successfully multicultural society today. Germany hopes to reap the rewards with its ethnically-diverse team on the pitch in South Africa.

Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose and Piotr Trochowski were born in Poland, and moved across the border as children. All have been part of Germany’s international set-up for years. Youngster Marko Marin was born in war-struck Bosnia-Herzegovina. His parents moved to Frankfurt when he was two, and, when he came of age, Marin decided on a German passport. Mario Gomez was born in Baden-Wuerttemberg, but his father comes from Spain. Gomez is likely to miss out on a place in Germany’s attack, in favour of an in-form Brazilian-born striker nicknamed “Helmut.” More commonly known as Cacau, he was born in Sao Paulo province, and moved to German lower-league football ten years ago. Cacau became a German citizen in 2009, and the call from Joachim Loew came quickly. “I am glad that Germany has adopted me,” he said. “My whole mindset is German.”

Algeria is France’s Other Team in the 2010 World Cup

This article in Le Monde describes popular support for the Algerian team in France during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Of its 23 players, 17 were born in France. Controversy emerged when striker Rafik Saifi was involved in an altercation with a journalist after his team was eliminated in a 1-0 loss to the United States.