Tunisia footballer's refusal to speak French triggers dispute ahead of AFCON semi-finals

Tunisia footballer's refusal to speak French triggers dispute ahead of AFCON semi-finals
2 min read
14 July, 2019
A Tunisian footballer has caused a minor incident ahead of his team's semi-final match at the African Cup of Nations after he refused to speak French.
Senegalese journalists demanded Khenissi give his statements in French [Getty]

A Tunisian footballer has caused a minor incident during a press conference ahead of his team's semi final match at the African Cup of Nations after he refused to speak French.

Forward Taha Yassine Khenissi insisted in speaking in Arabic during the presser before the game against Senegal set to kick off on Sunday.

Senegalese journalists attempted to stop Khenissi speaking and demanded he give his statements in French.

"I don't speak French, I only speak Arabic," the striker told the journalists in French prompting them to loudly protest for several minutes over the lack of an interpreter.

French, which is the official language of Senegal, is widely spoken in fellow former French colony Tunisia, where Arabic is the sole official tongue.

The local dialect of Arabic in Tunisia is heavily influenced by French and can be hard for other Arabic speakers to understand.

This is the second time Tunisian players have caused a linguistic fuss at the tournament in Egypt.

After Tunisia's quarterfinal win over Madagascar, man-of-the-match winner Ferjani Sassi abandoned the post-match conference after interpreters demanded he speak in standard Arabic instead of the Tunisian dialect.

English, French and Arabic are the official languages of the Confederation of African Football.