In today’s Football Leaks revelations, French outlet Mediapart allege that PSG had a recruitment policy which lasted from 2013 until Spring of this year that actively discriminated against ethnic minorities at youth academy level.
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Yann Gboho is one of the most exciting French youth international midfield talents, but sadly, according to Mediapart, his name will be forever associated with a discrimination scandal even before the wider football audience will learn of his talent.
Mediapart affirm: “When he was 13 and despite his talent, PSG did not make an offer for him to join the club. Because he was black. And only because he was black.”
At the time, in 2014, the claims were rumoured in and around the club, but PSG’s management structure managed to stifle the story getting out.
Mediapart claim that after a long investigation they have discovered that individuals in positions of responsibility at PSG made the choice to cover up the culprits of this scandal and that until Spring 2018, the club continued to ask scouts to provide information on the “origin” of players under the following 4 categories: “French”, “Maghrebi”, “West Indian” and “Black African”.
The controversy first came to light inside the club in March 2014, according to Mediapart claims, when Yann Gboho was just 13 years old. He was playing for FC Rouen and showcased exceptional talent, which did not escape many. All the biggest youth academies were seeking to sign him, including the INF Clairefontaine, arguably the most successful academy in world football.
He certainly caught the eye of Serge Fournier, the experienced PSG scout for the region of Normandy, who gave him a “2+” in his evaluation form.
73-year-old Fournier said the following to Mediapart: “2+ is the best mark that anyone can get, apart from 1. But you only put a 1 for an Mbappé type player. For me, throughout my entire career, I have never given anyone a 1.”
On the scouting sheets that are filled out electronically, scouts are prompted to put in “essential qualities” of the player, the number on their shirt, whether the player is left or right footed, but also to mention their “origin”. When a scout is prompted to fill in the origin column, it provides a drop-down menu with 4 options: “French”, “Maghrebi”, “West Indian” and “Black African”.
When Mediapart asked Fournier about this practice, he said that he had never really thought about it, but admitted: “Yes, it should say “white” (rather than French). Especially because all the players that we recommend are French. PSG did not want us to sign any players born in Africa, because you can never be sure of their date of birth.”
Fournier recommended the signing of Yann Gboho again two years later, having written “Black African” in his origin box on the scouting sheet, with the player having just signed for Rennes.
On the 14th March 2014, a scouting meeting was held by Marc Westerloppe, who was close to then PSG Sporting Director Olivier Létang, who is now the president of Ligue 1 side Rennes.
Mediapart got a hold of the notes taken in that 7-person meeting relating specifically to recruitment for the youth academy, which PSG have reportedly not disputed the authenticity of, reading allegedly as follows:
Discussion about the U13 Rouen midfielder, Geboho (error in noting down his name properly), an excellent profile that Marc Westerloppe is delaying on making a move for.
Westerloppe: We are not coming back to this subject, I do not want to be made out as the ugly duckling. There is a problem with the direction of this club, we need a balance of diversity. There are too many West Indians and Africans in Paris.
Saad Ichalalène (one of the managers of the youth teams): What sort of diversity are we talking about, ethnic? Cultural? Religious? Social? In terms of the latter, there is not a problem here.
Bertrand Reuzeau (Head of the Youth Academy): We need to find the best players for the top level, that is all.
Westerloppe: If the recruiting process is open nationally, it is a shame to find the same type of players that are already in Paris, that is a request from the board.
Pierre Reynaud (Head Scout for Île-de-France): Except that this is not a question of ethnicity but of talent.”
A final phrase on the document summarised the rest of the meeting: “What followed, was a stormy debate.”
This recruitment strategy on the part of the club, based around the player’s skin colour, had been ongoing for 3 years prior following the quota affair, which was revealed by Mediapart in 2011. At the time, the National Technical Board (DTN) intended to limit the amount of children from foreign origins in national team youth set-ups.
It had considered this option for two reasons – a bi-national player could one day represent a national team that wasn’t France and from a physical perspective, according to the French national team coach Laurent Blanc, France should be looking for other types of players apart from “black Africans” who were “big, powerful and strong.”
PSG could not hide behind the former excuse, as the national team that their players went on to represent would have been of little significance, allege Mediapart.