French fume after Domenech hearing

POLITICIANS involved in yesterday’s closed-door hearing about France’s World Cup fiasco grumbled that Raymond Domenech refused to take any responsibility for his team’s misbehaviour and offered no explanations.

They said Domenech, the outgoing coach, tried to pin blame on the press during the parliamentary hearing.

A prominent National Assembly member, Jean-François Cope, said Domenech’s testimony “wasn’t very dignified”.

Many had kinder words for the French Football Federation president, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, who plans to resign this week, and who also testified at the hearing held by the National Assembly’s commission on culture and education.

The hearing went ahead despite a warning from FIFA about French government meddling in football affairs. Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president, said the national team risks suspension if the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, or political leaders interfere in the running of the federation.

The politicians responded by saying that it was not Blatter’s place to tell them how to do their jobs. “It isn’t FIFA’s role to threaten French lawmakers; we’re in a democracy and parliamentarians have the right to hear anyone they want,” said Eric Ciotti of the ruling UMP party.

“This isn’t just about football, it’s about France: it’s our honour that’s at stake,” added Jacques Remiller of the National Assembly. Remiller said the whole hearing was “disappointing and not convincing at all”. “There will have to be more resignations at the federation, because the problems are deeply, deeply rooted,” he added.

France, who won the 1998 World Cup and lost to Italy in the final four years ago, failed to win a game in South Africa. Worse, the players went on strike at training after the forward Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting Domenech.

Domenech added yet more dismay by refusing to shake hands with his rival coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, after France’s 2-1 loss to the hosts, South Africa. The politicians said Domenech blamed L’Equipe newspaper, which printed details of Anelka’s expletive-laden tirade, for the disarray. Domenech also said the paper misquoted the comments.

“All Domenech says is, ‘It’s the press,’” complained Bernard Debré. Domenech entered and left the hearing through a side door, carefully avoiding reporters.


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