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Le Pen does not know French history, says Thuram

Written by: Staff

HAMELIN, Germany, June 29 (Reuters) Far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who says there are too many black players in the France team, does not know French history, defender Lilian Thuram said today.

''Maybe Mr. Le Pen hasn't been told that some French people are black and others have got blond or brown hair,'' Thuram told reporters at France's World Cup base in northern Germany.

''I'm a bit surprised to see that this gentleman, who keeps running for presidency, does not know the history of our country,'' added the experienced central defender, who is preparing for Saturday's quarter-final against Brazil in Frankfurt.

''An American, for instance, would never be surprised to see black players on his national basketball team.'' Le Pen told Reuters this week he felt French people did not fully identify with their national soccer team because there may be too many ''players of colour''.

FANS SUPPORT ''We feel that France doesn't totally recognise itself in this team,'' said Le Pen, who caused an electoral shock in the 2002 presidential elections by beating the Socialist candidate to the second round.

''Our fans support us and love us without asking themselves whether we're black or not because they know we are French,'' Thuram replied.

A member of France's 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000-winning sides, the 34-year-old Thuram, who has won a national record 118 caps, was born on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Le Pen also said that goalkeeper Fabien Barthez should be kicked out of the team if he refuses to sing the national anthem.

''Some sing the anthem and some don't but whether you sing it or not has nothing to do with whether you feel French or not,'' was Thuram's answer.

''Maybe we should invite Monsieur Le Pen to celebrate our next victory with us,'' Thuram said. ''Maybe it would help him realise that we are all French.

''If you see Monsieur Le Pen, tell him we're proud of being French and we love France, the real France.'' Reuters DH VV2049

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