After Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar accused Marseille’s Alvaro Gonzalez of directing a racial slur at him during Sunday’s match, French Football Federation president Nöel Le Graët said racism “does not exist” in soccer.
“When a black guy scores a goal, the whole stadium is on its feet. This phenomenon of racism in sport, and in football in particular, does not exist at all or barely exists,” Le Graët told BFM Business in an interview on Tuesday, which was translated by beIN Sports.
“It is a match that the entirety of France has anticipation for. It went badly. The behavior of the players was not exemplary. We deplore that. It is a shame. They were not able to keep their cool, nor give the show that we were expecting,” he added while addressing the melee in Sunday’s match.
Neymar and Gonzalez were among five players sent off in Le Classique, which Marseilles won 1–0. The 28-year-old said he slapped Gonzalez on the back of the head for using the slur after they confronted each other during injury time. After a brawl broke out, PSG substitutes Leandro Paredes and Layvin Kurzawa and Marseille’s Jordan Amavi and Dario Benedetto were sent out. Neymar was also expelled after a VAR review.
Gonzalez later denied making the comment.
Following Le Graët’s interview, many critics were quick to recall his comments from 2019 when he said he supported referees stopping matches over the use of racist chants–but not homophobic ones.
FFF implemented new rules last season allowing referees to halt play if an incident occurs.
“We will make sure there are no more (homophobic banners and chants). But stopping a game? No,” Le Graët said, per Reuters. “I would not stop the games–totally against this.”
Le Graët said he would stop a game if racist chants broke out, but his distinction between the forms of discrimination drew a firestorm of criticism.
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