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FILE PICTURE: French actor and former soccer player Eric Cantona attends a news conference ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Shanghai April 14, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song(reuters_tickers)
PARIS (Reuters) - Former French soccer star turned actor Eric Cantona took a swipe at French presidential candidate Francois Fillon on Friday, suggesting it was time to cancel the country's election given the lack of ethics and morals in the campaign.
In a 40-second sound bite on social media, the former Manchester United and France striker reacted just hours after one-time favourite Fillon accused outgoing President Francois Hollande of orchestrating a plot to derail his bid.
"Ooh aah... France it's a very strange country. If you are indicted you are banned indefinitely from the national football team, but you can still run for the presidency," he said.
Cantona - whose 1990s exploits in the English Premiership used to elicit the chant "Ooh aah Cantona" from fans - was referring to Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema, who has been left out of the French national team since he was placed under investigation over an alleged plot to blackmail a teammate last year.
Fillon was placed under investigation over an alleged fake jobs scandal regarding his wife earlier this month, but has continued his bid to run for the presidency in April.
"Francois Fillon once suggested cancelling a match if people were disrespecting the national anthem. I suggest we cancel the election when candidates are disrespecting morals and ethics," he said.
It's not the first time the media-savvy celebrity has stepped into a French presidential battle. In 2012, he launched a mock bid for the presidency in a stunt designed to highlight the plight of millions of poor and homeless people.
On that occasion the former French national captain appeared on the front cover of the left-leaning Liberation newspaper, next to the headline "Cantona enters the campaign" and an appeal for the 500 signatures he would need to run for the top job.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)