Gallic harm

2010-06-22 00:00

IT’S all happening at the World Cup, and almost all of it to Bafana Bafana’s final World Cup Group A opponents at the Free State Stadium today, France.

French coach Raymond Domenech yesterday faced one of the most packed press conferences of the World Cup to answer questions on striker Nicolas Anelka being sent home, a training ground bust-up and his players refusing to train on Sunday.

The coach is believed to be the root of simmering tensions that have increased since France’s controversial qualification at the expense of Ireland.

“First of all, I would like to say that the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka was justified. I supported the [French Football] Federation on this — no-one has the right to behave in such a manner,” Domenech said.

Anelka allegedly told Domenech to, “go screw yourself, dirty son of a whore,” at half-time of France’s match against Mexico on Thursday, when the score was 0-0. Anelka did not retake the field and France lost 2-0.

On Sunday, after a training ground bust-up between captain Patrice Evra and fitness coach Robert Duverne, the players would not retake the field in a public session that was being screened live in France.

“For 45 minutes I spoke to them on the bus,” Domenech said. “I said it was on their conscience and an aberration that could not be qualified.

“I failed to convince them and eventually said, ‘Let’s stop this masquerade’.

“Since it all was being beamed live back home, I therefore accepted their memorandum and agreed to read it [to the press].”

Domenech has publicly made clear he does not care what anyone, including the press and public, thinks about him.

As the super-slick French press, in what seemed a co-ordinated, pre-planned strategy, fired questions at the coach, he answered with stubborn, composed one-liners.

Are France feeling mocked by the world, the press asked?

“We have the game tomorrow to answer that.”

Are the players still listening to you?

“We will have to see on the pitch tomorrow.”

Are you responsible for the current situation?

“I am responsible for the French team and anything that happens to it.”

Are you hoping to put this behind you?

“Yes, on the 11th of July.”

Speculation is that Domenech was forced to change his starting line-up against Mexico following pressure from a clique of players, believed to be under the influence of the retired Zinedine Zidane. Zidane allegedly controlled the dressing room of the team that reached the 2006 World Cup final.

Domenech admitted his side’s confidence is down and their energy levels have been sapped by the team’s meltdown. He said the players could redeem themselves with their performance against Bafana.

The coach said he would meet his team management last night and decide if certain players, identified as leaders in the revolt, would play today.

French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot also addressed a press conference in the media centre at the Free State Stadium last night to apologise to the World Cup hosts.

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