CONTROVERSY: Sagnol playing for France in 2008 (PA)
BORDEAUX MANAGER Willy Sagnol has apologised following a backlash against comments he made about the differences between African and Nordic players,
The former France international, who earned 58 caps for Les Bleus, made the remarks when fielding questions earlier this week from readers of a regional French newspaper Sud Ouest.
When the question of African players was brought up, Sagnol replied: “The advantage of what I would call the typical African player is that he isn't expensive when you sign him, [he is] a player who is ready for combat, but football isn't just about that.”
Explaining further, he added: “Football is also technique, intelligence. You need a bit of everything. You need Nordics too, Nordics are good.”
Offence was taken by some for the implication that Sagnol implied African footballers lack certain attributes and therefore are worth somehow less.
Speaking yesterday (Nov 6) at a pre-match conference for Saturday’s game against Lens, the coach said his earlier remarks were made in a sporting context and that he was “sorry” if he had “shocked, humiliated or hurt people”.
Sagnol, an ex-Bayern Munich player, said: “'When I spoke about the African [player] who is cheaper and ready for combat, I simply meant to talk about the young African player arriving in Europe with all of his will to win and often to escape from a precarious situation.”
HUMILIATED: Kombouare (PA)
On the subject of intelligence, he added: “Since we were in a debate about football, the intelligence I spoke of was obviously related to tactical intelligence. The forming of young players in Africa, probably because of a lack of financial means, or [lack] of infrastructure, isn't always as complete as what's available in Europe.”
Lens coach Antoine Kombouare criticised Sagnol saying he had “really messed up”.
The manager, born in New Caledonia, France, said: “What he said is serious. It's unacceptable. Explaining that an African player is cheaper.
“I felt humiliated and hurt.”
Sagnol’s remarks have been condemned by the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism.
Former France team-mate Lilian Thuram got involved in the debate and separated the remarks from the man.
He told Sud Ouest: “I played alongside Willy, he's somebody I respect. I know him very well.
“I don't think you should put Willy Sagnol on trial, but you should put prejudice on trial. Each one of us harbors some prejudice, which is why people working in football, who have a certain exposure to the media, should be educated on this subject.”
RESPECT: Thuram (PA)