Toulon president defends cancellation of friendly

Mourad Boudjellal refuses to take his side to Béziers after town voted far-right party into power

President of reigning Heineken Cup champions Mourad  Boudjellal is of Algerian origin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

President of reigning Heineken Cup champions Mourad Boudjellal is of Algerian origin. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

 


Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has defended his decision to cancel a friendly with French second division side Béziers after the town voted the far-right National Front into power.

Boudjellal had given the struggling former powerhouse of French rugby a boost by announcing that the European Champions would visit their southern neighbours in July.

However, the game was called off when Robert Ménard was confirmed as Bézier’s new mayor following last weekend’s second round of regional elections.

“I don’t want to go to a town that in the first round voted almost 50 per cent – or not far off, 45 per cent – for a National Front candidate,” Boudjellal told French radio station RTL yesterday.

“When I meet a player, I want to ask myself first of all whether he’s a good player or not, rather than whether he’s black or white.”

The outspoken comic book publisher, who is of Algerian origin, said he could not bring his “multi-racial team” to the town. He maintained that he had no qualms about seemingly punishing the people of Béziers.

“Fifty per cent of them voted for a candidate who advocates that foreigners are at fault and that there are too many foreigners in France,” Boudjellal said.

The 54-year-old also hit back at what he termed “staggering” criticism of his character from National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

“A dubious millionaire?” the Toulon president asked. “But what does that mean? That if you’re an Arab you’re suspect when you’ve earned a little bit of money? It’s completely stupid.”

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