France coach Blanc thought of quitting

by AFP on May 14, 2011

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France national coach Laurent Blanc admitted on Friday that he considered quitting as the soccer race storm threatened to engulf him and his family.

Blanc has been cleared of racial discrimination in the row over talks concerning the introduction of quotas for dual nationality players, where he has been at the centre of the controversy.

"Did I offer my resignation? At no time," Blanc told AFP in an exclusive interview.

"Did I consider resigning? Yes. Because at times you feel everything is getting out of hand and taking on a dimension beyond sport. You are in a cycle and you say that you can't do this job knowing all that and if the solution is to leave, then you have to go.

"But there was a greater thing to consider. I have been hired by the French football federation on a two-year contract with a precise mission, to qualify for Euro 2012."

The quota and race controversy was sparked when the Mediapart website released a transcript of a meeting last November in which Blanc and French officials discussed introducing quotas on the number of dual-nationality players at youth training centres.

A number of players have come through French academies in recent years, and represented France at youth level, only to switch allegiances to the senior sides of different countries.

Blanc admitted he had felt the intense scrutiny of the fall-out from the affair in a country where the make-up of the national team has always been a sensitive issue.

He also admitted he had been deeply hurt by accusations that he had been involved in anything which could have been considered racist.

"For me and my family, it was a delicate time and I wouldn't wish it on anyone," he said.

"(Was I hurt?). That's the least you can say. You never think you will be accused of things on which you are uncompromising."

Blanc apologised for the remarks he made in the now-infamous meeting when the thorny issue of quotas was raised.

"Yes, I regret the things which were said that caused hurt. We should have concentrated on the game, that was interest in the first place. The conversation turned to double-nationality," said Blanc.

"It was necessary to judge whether or not there was a problem. But if there is a debate, as it's a sensitive subject, you have to be very, very careful in what words are used."

Despite the controversy, Blanc insisted that he had no regrets about taking the post in succession to Raymond Domenech.