French federation president Noel Le Graet downplays racism in soccer

Noel Le Graet, the 78-year-old president of the French soccer federation, says racism isn't a problem in soccer despite Sunday's brawl between rivals Paris St. Germain and Marseille during which PSG star Neymar claimed Marseille's Spanish defender, Alvaro Gonzalez, called him a “monkey son of a b****.”

La Graet deplored what happened at the end of "Le Classique," but said racism was not a factor.

"It is a match that the entirety of France was anticipating," he told BFM Business. "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."

Neymar was one of five players sent off after he punched Gonzalez in the back of the head. Gonzalez denied the charges. A report on the disciplinary issues in the which has not yet been issued.

“When a black player scores a goal, the whole stadium is on its feet," Le Graet said. "This phenomenon of racism in sport, and in football in particular, does not exist at all or barely exists.”

In 2018, a Ligue 1 match between Dijon and Amiens in Dijon was interrupted when Amiens captain Prince Gouano was the target of monkey chants. French soccer has a high concentration of immigrants from North Africa and West Africa and a history of racist incidents at the amateur level.

Le Graet (right in photo) is known for making controversial remarks.

In 2019, he told Canal+ PSG will win when "they have a real team, when they find a formula that is maybe a little more French." PSG's squad has been dominated by players from Latin America.

At the start of last season, Le Graet pushed back on efforts by the French government to crack down on homophobic chants in the stands at sporting events, opposing the interruption of a Nice and Marseille in Nice when fans unfurled disparaging banners in the stands.

"I would not stop the games," he said. "I do not want to be held hostage on homophobia. There are security services to ensure that these banners disappear."

Photo by JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire

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