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11 Sep, 2019 14:27

‘Not the same as racism’: French football boss says matches shouldn’t be halted over anti-gay chants

‘Not the same as racism’: French football boss says matches shouldn’t be halted over anti-gay chants

French football federation president Noel Le Graet has stated that racism and homophobia "are not the same thing," adding that he instructed referees not to stop matches because of anti-gay chanting.

Speaking to France Info, the 77-year-old complained that too many matches have been halted due to a newly introduced FIFA rule which allows referees to suspend the game in case of discriminatory behavior.

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The football official stressed that the French football federation will focus efforts on preventing fans from displaying homophobic banners at stadiums, but refused the idea of stopping games because of abusive anti-gay chants.

"To say that football is homophobic, and could be the only symbol of homophobia in France, that's a bit strong. I don't accept it," Le Graet said. "We'll make sure there are no more banners (in stadiums); that's different. But stopping games, no."

"Stopping matches (for homophobic chanting) doesn't interest me. It's an error," he added. "I would stop a game for racist chants, that is clear. I would stop it for a fight, for incidents, if there is a danger somewhere inside the stadium."

Le Graet’s comments sparked outrage among France’s anti-discrimination groups, which called on the football boss to retire.

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French President Emmanuel Macron also weighed in on the issue, saying that football should “reconcile everyone.”

"When football reconciles everyone, it should also carry our country's values of unity," Macron said.