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Why the Karim Benzema case has poisoned lives and inflamed France

Karim Benzema will be reintegrated into the France squad for Euro 2020 after a recall from Didier...


Why the Karim Benzema case has poisoned lives and inflamed France

Karim Benzema will be reintegrated into the France squad for Euro 2020 after a recall from Didier Deschamps, and Philippe Auclair joined us to explain the origins of one of the 'deepest wounds in French football.'

Benzema is one of several who will stand trial for the alleged blackmail of his then-France teammate Mathieu Valbuena in 2015. Since the allegations were made public, neither Benzema or Valbuena have appeared for France.

Until Tuesday.

Auclair explained the possible reasoning behind the decision.

Benzema case 'poisoning lives'

"There is a certain amount of pressure from above, it is no secret that people at the French FA have wanted Didier Deschamps to bring Karim Benzema back into the national team for a while. Gentle pressure, perhaps, but pressure nonetheless.

"[There is] perhaps a need for all parties involved - the player and the manager - to sweep the matter under the carpet once and for all because this really been poisoning their lives for too long now.

"All of these factors combined to make Didier Deschamps' decision more understandable if not less surprising."


Where, in particular, is that pressure coming from?

"Noël Le Graët, who has been re-elected as President of the French FA is pretty much the man who decides everything in the French FA. He has been pretty clear, in private if not public, that he would be very happy for Karim Benzema to rejoin the French national team for a while.

"Didier Deschamps has accepted the fact that there have been a number of discussions with Le Graët in the recent past about it."

Auclair believes many in France will be satisfied that the decision goes some way towards some reconciliation.

"It took on distinctly poisonous and toxic connotations. I'm not sure it's the right decision in football terms - I'm not sure that will work out alright - but like almost everybody else in France, I am relieved. We might have turned a corner in this really sordid affair.

Race in Benzema case

The affair has dragged in issues of racial and national identity, which have been at the forefront of French politics in recent years, as Karim Benzema is of Algerian descent. He has said that he would rather not sing the national anthem, and this was an issue for some on the right even before getting involved in one of the darker chapters of French football history.

Auclair finds the trend for the extreme right of French politics to be asked for their reaction a 'distasteful' facet of the saga.

"I think most French people, and most football fans, breath a sigh of relief [at Deschamps' decision.] It is going to be very difficult to have complete reconciliation, we shouldn't be blind to that, but it is a decision that goes some way to healing a very deep wound in French football."

'Taking temperatures'

Politics and French football have more overlap than in other countries, and Auclair believes that Deschamps' decision to not consult senior members of the squad may be myopic.

"He hasn't taken the temperature of the dressing room, he hasn't consulted any of the senior players. You can guarantee that had he consulted them before going to see Karim Benzema in April [...] the news would have filtered out.

"It didn't happen because they kept it to themselves, it came to the players as much of a surprise as it did to us.

"Beyond the satisfaction, there is an interrogation of whether this homecoming of Karim Benzema could also be quite disruptive when it comes to preparations for the Euros."

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