Raymond Domenech suffered the ultimate humiliation at the hands of his players as strikes, rows, resignations and recriminations left the French in disarray on one of the darkest days in the country’s football history.
Domenech’s impotence was laid bare in extraordinary fashion after his players refused to train at their scheduled afternoon session, in protest at the French Football Federation’s decision to send home Nicolas Anelka. The Chelsea striker argued with Domenech in the dressing room at half-time in last Thursday’s Group A defeat by Mexico, reportedly saying to him: “Go fuck yourself, you son of a whore.” After he refused to apologise to Domenech, the FFF expelled him from the squad.
In front of hundreds of fans at what was an open session in Knysna,France‘s players began by signing autographs. But once on the pitch, the captain, Patrice Evra, had a row with Robert Duverne, the fitness coach, which resulted in the latter storming off and the players withdrawing to the team bus and pulling shut the curtains. Domenech had to separate Evra and Duverne.
Evra, who had earlier stayed on the bus to talk to Domenech, was seen with a letter, which turned out to be a statement from the players. Incredibly, it fell to Domenech to read it out. The coach seemed to be caught between a rock and a hard place and the scene was described by some commentators as the most unbelievable in the history of Les Bleus.
“All the players without exception want to declare their opposition to the decision taken by the FFF to exclude Nicolas Anelka from the squad,” Domenech read. “At the request of the squad, the player in question attempted to have dialogue but his approach was ignored. The FFF has at no time tried to protect the squad. It has made a decision [to send Anelka home] without consulting all the players, on the basis of the facts reported by the press.”
The France team director, Jean-Louis Valentin, resigned. “It’s a scandal for the French, for the young people here, for the federation and the French team,” he said. “They don’t want to train. It’s unacceptable. As for me, it’s over. I’m leaving the federation. I’m sickened and disgusted.”
The FFF hit back at the players in a statement that said their actions were “unacceptable”. It read: “Contrary to what the players said, this sanction [of Anelka] was taken following a long conversation with the person in the presence of the captain. The FFF apologise to the country for the unacceptable conduct of the players that are representing our country. A federal council shall be convened immediately on the completion of the French team’s campaign to draw all the conclusions of the crisis that has been created.”
France intend to train tomorrow , most likely behind closed doors, ahead of Tuesday’s game against South Africa, in which the players intend to “ensure that France regains its honour”. It is unclear whether Domenech will give the team talk. After drawing with Uruguay and losing to Mexico, France need a handsome victory coupled with a favourable result in the Uruguay’s match against Mexico if they are to advance to the last 16.
Evra had earlier railed against the “traitor” in the squad’s midst, “who told the press what was said” at half-time against Mexico. Duverne denied he was to blame. “I talked to Raymond Domenech on behalf of the players [after the dressing-room row], including Patrice Evra,” he said. “I have children and I don’t want to be sullied by rumours that I am the traitor.” Evra later said that Duverne was not to blame.
Of his argument with Evra, Duverne said: “Patrice Evra came to tell me that the players were not going to participate in training. I was angry because we play a big game in two days and we have no right to destroy our last chance. We are in a difficult situation but it is not impossible.”
Domenech had said that he had “left open the possibility” for Anelka to apologise but the player was not prepared to do so. “The decision to exclude him, then, was the right one,” Domenech said earlier in the day. “I am sorry for the children for whom the French team represents something. Anelka does not have the right to say such things.”
There is widespread anger in France and the day’s events not only highlighted the divisions between the FFF and Domenech and the players respectively but they brought to a head the tensions that have dogged the set-up in recent weeks. Domenech, who has been accused of bizarre decision-making, has alienated many players, including Thierry Henry, William Gallas, Florent Malouda and Anelka, and there are clashes between individual members of the squad. Domenech will leave his post after the World Cup, to be replaced by Laurent Blanc.
Fabio Cappello counts his days as England Manager and England hopes for a place in the World Cup last 16
England’s World Cup campaign has encountered fresh turbulence amid the threat of mutiny and growing uncertainty over the future of Fabio Capello as manager.
Capello led the squad to South Africa three weeks ago with his future secured after a couple of tweaks to his £4.8 million-a-year contract, but his authority was challenged publicly on Sunday by John Terry, the man he stripped of the captaincy over an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, a lingerie model and a team-mate’s former partner.
With growing doubts about Capello’s position, the FA was forced last night to deny reports that they expect the Italian to resign if England are eliminated in their make-or-break match against Slovenia on Wednesday.
Tension between Capello and Terry has never been far from the surface since the player was stripped of his much treasured captaincy in February after revelations about his relationship with Ms Perroncel, whose former partner was Wayne Bridge, Terry’s former Chelsea and England team-mate. Bridge was so disgusted by Terry’s behaviour that he retired from international football, despite several pleas from Capello to reconsider.
Terry stunned the assembled journalists at a press conference on Sunday by declaring that he intended to air grievances with Capello at a planned team meeting on Sunday night. “We are having a meeting with the manager and, whether he starts it or finishes it, the players can say how they feel,” he said. “If it upsets him or it upsets certain players, so what?”
In fact, Terry’s comments upset some of his team-mates as they watched live coverage of the press conference in their bedrooms at the Royal Marang hotel, on the site of the Bafokeng Sports Campus, where they are training. Sources said his desire to challenge Capello was not shared by some of his team-mates.
As it transpired, Terry was persuaded to drop his challenge to Capello at the meeting. Instead, it was largely a one-way discussion as Capello and his staff talked the players through their abject performance in the 0-0 draw with Algeria on Friday.
The unrest in and around the camp was heightened when an England supporter found his way into the dressing-room in the stadium in Cape Town on Friday night before telling players their performance had been “a disgrace”.
Pavlos Joseph, a 32-year-old mortgage adviser from southeast London, appeared at Cape Town Magistrates’ Court yesterday, charged with offences relating to stadium security before being released on 500 rand (about £50) bail. He is due back in court today and has been banned from attending matches while he awaits trial, as well as having his passport confiscated.
While senior figures within the FA have said they believe the Italian manager will resign if his team is eliminated on Wednesday, Adrian Bevington, the managing director of the newly formed Club England board, said: “Fabio was given a contract until 2012 and nothing has changed in that respect.”
Source : The Times