'The French team have shamed France' - media

PARIS, June 21, 2010 (AFP) - The French press poured scorn on the World Cup squad on Monday saying their refusal to train in protest at the decision to send home striker Nicolas Anelka had shamed the whole country.

PARIS, June 21, 2010 (AFP) - The French press poured scorn on the World Cup squad on Monday saying their refusal to train in protest at the decision to send home striker Nicolas Anelka had shamed the whole country.

If the French squad in South Africa thought they would garner sympathetic headlines back home over their refusal to train because of Anelka's expulsion for a foul-mouthed outburst at coach Raymond Domenech then they were wrong.

"This France team has shamed us all" commented tabloid 'Le Parisien' while on the front page they simply put 'Mutiny' above a photograph of the squad at their training ground in Knysna.

The paper didn't hold back in its judgement on the squad - though according to their information several players were not in favour of the boycott led by senior players William Gallas, Florent Malouda and Eric Abidal.

But as Le Parisien said, other players "followed their lead nevertheless like sheep" or "because they had no choice" under the pressure of their teammates.

"Each day, the Blues set new standards of unacceptable behaviour," it said.

"Yesterday in order to demonstrate their support of Nicolas Anelka who had been expelled the day before, they went on strike... this group of spoilt children, allowed to do whatever they want by the powers above them, therefore do not have any limits, no sense of duty so close to the match with South Africa."

Anelka unleashed his outburst at half-time of France's 2-0 defeat to Mexico whichy has left them teetering on the brink of elimination.

French footballer Nicolas Anelka arrives at Heathrow airport in London, on June 21, 2010. Anelka was dismissed from the French World Cup squad on June 20, 2010. AFP
French footballer Nicolas Anelka arrives at Heathrow airport in London, on June 21, 2010. Anelka was dismissed from the French World Cup squad on June 20, 2010. AFP

They must beat host nation South Africa by a wide margin on Tuesday, but a draw between their group rivals Uruguay and Mexico would render the French result academic.

Coach Raymond Domenech, who the French Football Federation steadfastly refused to replace despite calls from all sides in the lead-up to the finals, does not escape the paper's opprobrium.

"One question raises itself: Would the players have dared to behave in this way with the great coaches of today like Fabio Capello (England's coach), Marcello Lippi (Italy) or Ottmar Hitzfeld (Switzerland)?"

The paper even goes so far as to equate what happened on the training pitch with one of France's most traumatic battlefield defeats which brought to a conclusive end the golden era of Napoleon I.

"The mutiny at Knysna will forever be remembered as the Waterloo of French football."

Sports daily L'Equipe, which revealed the Anelka outburst on Saturday, didn't mince its words about the role of national captain Patrice Evra, who led the revolt.

"Patrice Evra definitively showed that he confused the role of captain with being a leader of a gang.

"He has neither the capacity, nor the charisma nor the qualities to don the captain's armband."

For the paper, however, it also registered the last opportunity for 57-year-old Domenech to bow out with some grace as he steps down in any case after the finals and hands over the poisoned chalice to World Cup-winning defender Laurent Blanc.

"Raymond Domenech, by reading this statement from the players missed his final opportunity to show panache and courage.

"Hostage, puppet of his group, he proved once and for all that he has neither any sense of responsbility nor commitment."

The FFF don't escape the withering fire of L'Equipe neither - president Jean-Pierre Escalettes is described as an "amateur from start to finish" - with only the liaison director to the squad Jean-Louis Valentin who resigned over the players' behaviour given credit.

"Who maintained Raymond Domenech in power? Who covered up his methods and defended his arrogance? Who allowed the players to ferment their paranoia and conspiracy theories?

"Let no-one be duped, the expulsion of Nicolas Anelka for his insults, is not a glorious step for the FFF.

"It was the least they could do which adds up to very little, and certainly does not reduce their immense responsibility in the farcical, theatrical goings-on of yesterday."

Left-leaning daily 'Liberation' headlined its editorial 'Vaudeville' and held Domenech responsible.

"He never assumed the responsbilities of the Euro 2008 failure and clung to his post.

"He confused the pitch with a reality TV studio. In summation Raymond Domenech accepted to be the plaything of financial interests, the federation, television, players' agents and other sponsors."

The editorial effectively decries the flood of money into football and ends with: "A sport which yesterday in France lost a lot of credit."

Other news