Our regular look at French football – illustrated by a photo borrowed from the PSGmag.net fan site – considers the racial quotas scandal – and comes clean on another dodgy prediction …
Lille football club – LOSC Lille Métropole if you must – are very nearly the Ligue 1 champions in France after winning 2-1 last night at Saint-Etienne (who else remembers when Dominique Rocheteau played for them?
It puts them seven points ahead of Marseille, who have a game in hand but a markedly inferior goal difference.
Only a remarkable collapse in their final three games, from which five points would suffice, would stop Lille winning the title for the first time since their previous championships on 1946 and 1954. As in 1946, they may also win the double, the Coupe de France final against PSG coming up on Saturday night.
And my apologies to Marseille for casting a curse on their title hopes for the second time in three seasons. On the morning OM blew their chances by crumbling at home to Lyon two seasons ago, I had a 2,000-word piece on the sports pages of The National, Abu Dhabi, dealing at length with their revival after 16 years in the doldrums. And only last week, when they briefly went top of Ligue 1, I predicted that they would go on to stay there. Oh well.
Meanwhile, the hot football news in France is the sports minister’s clear statement that Laurent Blanc, manager of the national side, was innocent of any improper behaviour in the affair of the racial quotas. For those new to the subject, the Q word was used by the French Football Federation technical director François Blaquart when a meeting of coaches last November discussed the issue of schoolboy hopefuls who were trained at FFF expense only to go on to represent the North or sub-Saharan African nations of their family origins.
Read moreFrench Fancies: Laurent Blanc, racial quotas and Lille’s shock for OM