French stars in tears after stern lecture

2010-06-22 13:39

A French minister reduced the country’s disgraced World Cup stars

to tears as she gave them a dressing down over their tantrums ahead of their

final group game.

With the whole of France outraged at the antics of the millionaire

footballers in refusing to train and threatening to boycott the match against

South Africa, Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot said she had told the players

they are a “moral disaster”.

Bachelot said of the encounter at the team camp last night: “They

applauded me and they were crying.”

A French Football Federation official, Henri Monteil, said many

young players were again in tears when they went to coach Raymond Domenech’s

room to apologise for the strike that started after Nicolas Anelka was sent home

for insulting Domenech.

Fallen heros

Bachelot said: “I told the players that they are perhaps no longer

heros for our children. It is the dreams of your partners, your friends, your

supporters that you have broken. It is the image of France that you have

tarnished.”

She went on: “I said to the players that French football was

confronting a disaster, not because it had lost a match but because this

disaster is a moral disaster.”

Bachelot said she told the stars that “nothing will be the same

again” during what she called “an extremely emotional meeting” when she saw

tears in the eyes of the players.

France’s World Cup campaign has been in disarray since their 2-0

defeat to Mexico. Anelka was replaced at half-time after his slanging match with

Domenech and was later expelled from the team camp.

The players refused to train on Sunday and Domenech said later that

it was possible some might boycott today’s game against South Africa, which it

had to win handsomely to have any hope of reaching the second round.

Bachelot said she had spoken to French President Nicolas Sarkozy

and Prime Minister Francois Fillon before delivering her dressing down. She said

measures would be taken to reform the French football federation after the World

Cup fiasco.

Moral mission

She vowed to continue “the combat for the financial moralisation of

sport” and to improve the game’s professional conduct.

She said that any player

who did not agree to a new charter would not be selected for France.

Amidst bitter recriminations over the player protests, federation

secretary general Monteil said that the ringleaders were finished in the French

squad.

He said, as quoted by the Charente Libre newspaper: “Anyway, the

three or four leaders are players on the decline who will never play again in a

World Cup. Who are they? I don’t know, William Gallas, Eric Abidal, maybe

Thierry Henry, who is friends with Anelka.”

Monteil said he saw young players in tears as they went to

Domenech’s room at the team hotel to apologise for the protests.

Domenech has described the team protests as “unspeakably stupid”.

The French antics have led to angry protests at home with sponsors withdrawing

and some towns even taking down giant screens put up to watch the national

team’s World Cup games.

The vice president of the French National Assembly Marc Laffineur

today demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the “humiliation” of the country

inflicted by the footballers.

Political event

The final group game also became a political event for South

Africa, which was desperate to avoid becoming the first hosts to drop out of the

World Cup in the first round.

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu led attempts to rally national

support behind the Bafana Bafana national team.

Tutu’s call was splashed across

front pages, with The Star newspaper’s banner proclaiming: “Storm the Bastille,

Bafana”.

Tutu said: “As South Africans, we need to pat ourselves on the back

for having achieved something very special in terms of developing fantastic

infrastructure, ensuring that it works, and uniting our people.”

Organisers have sought to divert attention away from the bitter

divisions in the French squad and to a lesser extent in England other top

teams.

“It’s a wonderful success story so far,” the tournament’s top

organiser Danny Jordaan told a news conference.



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