France to announce Benzema’s national team fate


France’s football federation will announce Thursday whether star striker Karim Benzema is to be suspended by the national team over his involvement in a sex-tape blackmail scandal.

Federation president Noel le Graet is to hold a press conference at 1500 GMT, amid calls for a tough line to be taken on the case involving a tape of France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

Le Graet could announce a disciplinary hearing or a straight suspension of the 27-year-old star — who scored a hat-trick in Real Madrid’s Champions League 8-0 victory over Malmo on Tuesday — while police complete the case.

Benzema has been charged with complicity in the attempt to blackmail 31-year-old Lyon player Valbuena. Three men have been detained for the cash demand to have the tape destroyed.

French Football League president Frederic Thiriez said in a commentary that “wearing the blue shirt is not something ordinary.

“An exemplary attitude must come before even performance, if we want to win over hearts.”

“The French team is regularly shaken by scandals which feed a growing disillusionment among our compatriots,” Thiriez complained.

The case has caused chaos within the French squad as they prepare for Euro 2016 which the country will host next year.

Le Graet will give the federation verdict just two days before the Euro 2016 draw in Paris.

French football’s embarrassment has been increased because Benzema is alleged to have approached Valbuena at a national training camp on October 5 to encourage him to speak to the blackmailers, one of whom was a close childhood friend.

Valbuena has said that Benzema “indirectly” urged him to pay.

Benzema has replied that he is the target of a “persecution” and says he has the support of French coach Didier Deschamps.

Amid a national debate, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said Benzema should be kicked out of the team.

But as Benzema is the national team’s leading scorer with 27 goals in 81 games, he also has supporters.

“I hope for the French team and for the player, it (a suspension) is not the decision that is taken,” said French legend Zinedine Zidane this week.

“A player like Benzema is an important player for the team, he can bring so much to the team and I only watch the sporting aspect.

“I hope we will look at that aspect and his personal affair will settle quickly, which is the most important thing. In sporting terms, to cope without a player like that can be complicated.”