Paris: The French Football Federation (FFF) has suspended Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema, who is one of the accused in the blackmail of his national side teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex-tape, the French press revealed yesterday.
Karim Benzema is seen during France’s 2014 FIFA World Cup match against Honduras at Porto Alegre’s Estadio Beira-Rio. PIC/Getty Images
Benzema, 27, has been charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act for his alleged participation in the blackmail case. The charges carry a maximum five years prison sentence.
President of the FFF Noel Le Graet will announce the decision next Thursday at a press conference following the meeting of the executive committee of the organisation, indicated L’Equipe and Le Parisien, according to Efe.
The latter pointed out that it will be a provisional suspension until investigations clarify the level of Benzema’s involvement in the Valbuena sex tape blackmail plot.
That decision makes it impossible for coach Didier Deschamps to call both players at the same time and complicates Benzema’s situation.
Meanwhile, nearly 82% of French citizens feel that Benzema should no longer play for his country after being charged in the sex-tape blackmail case, according to a poll published conducted by media outlet RMC/BFMTV.
The survey asked: "Do you believe Karim Benzema can continue to be called up for the French national team?"
In total, 50% answered 'no, not at all,' while 32% responded 'no, not really', giving a total of 82 percent who were against seeing the Real Madrid striker back in the blue of the Euro 2016 hosts.
Of the 924 people aged 18 and over who were polled, only 18% responded favourably, with only 4% saying he 'absolutely' should be recalled by coach Didier Deschamps.
Later Benzema’s club president spoke out in his favour. "Karim should benefit like all of us on the fundamental right of innocent until proven guilty," said Florentino Perez. "He doesn’t deserve to be found guilty before being judged."
The poll was conducted before an interview with Benzema was broadcast by TF1 on Wednesday, in which he claimed he was being 'persecuted' and stated his hope that he will be able to return to the France squad ahead of Euro 2016.
Neither Benzema nor Lyon midfielder Valbuena were named in the France squad to play Germany and England last month. Les Bleus next play in March, in friendlies against the Netherlands and Russia.