Findings into French quota probe due Monday

PARIS - French Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno will announce on Monday the initial findings of a probe into alleged racial discrimination within the football federation.

France coach Laurent Blanc, who helped win the 1998 World Cup as a player, has been implicated in the affair but has yet to attend a Ministry hearing into accusations the federation wanted quotas for African and Arab players in youth teams.

"I want to bring serenity because what is happening is dramatic for football and for sport," Jouanno told reporters as she confirmed her first report would land on Monday.

"You cannot accuse Laurent Blanc of being racist and we must tell everyone to remind themselves of the wonderful image of France 98."

National technical director Francois Blaquart, suspended pending the inquiry, has apologised for using the word 'quota' in a federation meeting in November and also backed Blanc.

"I consider it an error in the context of an internal meeting to infer the true sense of the word quota which can simply mean balance or proportions without implying something else," he told RTL.

Blaquart said Blanc could not have heard the word, which was said "one time, extremely awkwardly".

"It was a very, very passionate debate which only lasted 20 minutes in a meeting of three hours I recall. I am not proud."

SEPARATE PROBE

The latest information published by Mediapart, which broke the story, is a chart which it says was circulated internally at the federation and identifies youths with dual nationalities who were likely to choose to play for teams other than France.

"What we should look at is what this chart was really about," added Jouanno, who refused to say when Blanc would be heard by her inquiry and a seperate federation probe.

"The date of the hearing is confidential, I promised him," she said amid reports he will be heard in Bordeaux on Saturday.

"He is in the process of reviving the France team and he instills values. Now we must find a solution to the crisis."

France endured a woeful World Cup last year and their players even went on strike but they are top of their Euro 2012 qualifying group under their new coach.

Blanc, slammed by some of his France '98 team-mates such as Patrick Vieira, has denied being racist and said any comments he made at the November meeting into dual nationality players were taken out of context but could "offend some sensibilities".

France '98 captain Didier Deschamps backed his friend.

"I'm very sorry for Laurent, as people are attacking the man, not the coach or the educator," the Marseille coach said.

"Freedom of expression exists, so does freedom to stay quiet. Two inquiries are underway. They are there to find answers to determine the degree of responsibility of each person.

"Laurent Blanc is the coach and I hope he stays for as long as possible. There is not the least ambiguity."