Sacrebleus! and Au Reviour as France Face Angry Talks with Sarkozy
By Guest Writer Isabella Stockwell.
The French team may as well make the most of their luxurious hotel whilst they still have it, as things are about to get a lot more uncomfortable for Les Bleus. With an economy class cabin awaiting their departure home, it’s not just their transport that’s getting a downgrade- their standing in society is too.
The French squad have been accused of committing a ‘moral disaster’ by their sports minister Roselyne Bachelot after a series of football faux pas and now even face an audit – demanded by President Sarkozy- into their self-destructive behaviour. Dressing room feuds, strikes and bad sportsmanship have led to a national disgrace, with Le Figaro blasting the performance of Les Bleus as ‘collective suicide, a living nightmare, a psychodrama that will go down in the history of the World Cup’.
President Sarkozy has warned of exemplary punishments for all those involved in what he feels has tarnished the image of not just French football – but France as a nation – ahead of investigations into why the team took part in training strikes instead of focusing on topping their group.
The reputation-destroying events began almost before the dressing room arguments occurred. The French team was accused of being too flash with their cash, choosing luxurious accommodation over a practical training base. With economic gloom clouding over France, this move makes for an unfavorable image of the nation led by the man labeled the bling-bling president.
Despite lifting the World Cup in 1998, France only just made it to South Africa with Thierry Henry’s ‘Hand of God’ moment against Ireland. France then set off on their path of personal self-destruction with a 0-0 draw to Uruguay, followed by a 2-0 loss to Mexico and capped off with a 2-1 loss to hosts South Africa. Returning home with one point and only scoring one goal in the process certainly doesn’t cut it for French fans, but it’s the behaviour of the team behind closed doors that’s led to an enquiry into what really happened in that notorious 15 minute half-time break that has their nation feeling shamed.
Telling your coach to ‘f*** yourself, you filthy son of a whore’ is never going to be a fruitful move in football but is a loose translation of the exchange between Nicholas Anelka and Raymond Domenech during the notorious 15 minutes against Mexico, but no one would have predicted it would cause a scandal bigger than John Terry’s love life. Anelka was substituted in response to his rant during the second half and sent home, causing captain Patrice Evra to speak of an unknown ‘traitor’ in the group who took the story to the press. The squad refused to train as a stand against the decision to send Anelka home and forced Domenech to read a letter from the team putting himself and the French Football Federation (FFF) into disrepute. Evra was then dropped prior to the game against South Africa at the Free Site stadium, and three of the opening line-up was not included in the squad, including Eric Abidal who personally asked not to play under Domenech.
With the French falling under the eye of the international press, Sarkizy ordered sports minister Bachelot to speak to the squad, in a meeting in which she accused them of tarnishing the image of France as a country, as well as losing their standing as idols for the children of France. The meeting brought some players to tears and led a few to apologize to Domenech for their part in the implosion of the team.
Domenech asked for the players to replenish France’s image ahead of the South Africa game, but after South Africa took a shock lead and Yoann Gourcuff was sent off for a questionable elbow, France were eliminated to the boos of their own supporters and their reputation in tatters, their fans even cheered when South Africa scored. Domenech disgraced the country further by refusing to shake the hand of South African coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, the image of France was well and truly tarnished.
The team, coach and FFF all now face scrutiny and an unwelcome homecoming as the public and government are outraged by the behaviour of Les Bleus, unsurprisingly all parties are seeking answers, as unlike in England, the government have invested an over-whelming amount of tax payers money into French Football.
Re-inventing the whole team has been called for by Le Figaro, and this may not be far from the case as Laurent Blanc prepares to take the reins, Anelka is expected to call time on international football and Franck Ribéry and Thierry Henry are also rumoured to be considering retirement.
Henry is flying back earlier than his team mates in order to have a less public talk with Sarkozy about the squads self-destruction, but whatever the outcome, it certainly won’t be a World Cup the French will forget in a hurry.
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