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Mediapart Sat 28 Nov 2015 28/11/2015 Morning edition

Blowing the whistle on a sick game

May 2, 2011 | By Edwy Plenel

No French authority, and notably no court of law, could allow a selection process among citizens based on their foreign origins, their skin colour or the religion they practice. That is key to understanding the importance of Mediapart's exclusive revelations of how the country's football chiefs hatched secret plans for a discriminatory selection of young players. Mediapart Editor-in-Chief Edwy Plenel argues here why this sorry affair, the demonstration of an alarming loss of values, offers a wakeup call for French society.

This article is freely available.

The written constitution of a republic is a text that gives it a sense and life. That of France, despite the changes in regimes and political majorities of both the Fourth and Fifth Republics, has begun with the same preamble since 1946. That is in itself an indication of the importance of those opening words, which describe solemn principles that cannot be violated.

Article One of the constitution begins: "France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It respects all beliefs."

It was after two world wars, the eruption of barbarianism within the heart of European culture and civilization, after millions of deaths, genocides, massacres and crimes against humanity that those words became inscribed at the top of the French constitution. Indivisible, the French republic grants the same rights to every citizen, wherever they may be, in Paris or overseas, born in Europe or Africa, of foreign descent or of ancient French stock.

Far from signifying a rejection of faiths, the secularity of the republic signifies a respect of all beliefs in all their diversity, including Islam. The French constitution's inseparable democratic and social ambitions demand the equality of all citizens, whatever their "origin, race or religion".

That is why no authority, and notably no court of law, could allow the practice of a selection of French citizens according to their foreign origins, their skin colour or the religion they practice. It is also what underlines the importance of Mediapart's investigation into the discussions behind closed doors by leading figures of the French Football Federation (FFF). Those discussions involved a plan to organize active discrimination in the recruitment of players based on criteria of their origins, race and religion.

Using the pretext that one day they could leave to play for another national team, young French players of foreign origin were judged to be less French than others, less loyal, whatever their aptitude and skills. Upon the pretext that teams should now favour technical competence above physical power, it was envisaged that young French players of African origin should be distanced from the recruitment process, based on the racialist approach that the colour of their skin denotes a specific type of human. On the pretext that Muslim players are troublemakers, French youths of Islamic faith could be barred from team selection, their beliefs and culture reduced to asides about "Islamists" or "Saracens".