x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

French side refuse to train

Players angry over Anelka's expulsion and the team director quits over 'scandal' as squad accuse football federation of failing them.

Raymond Domenech, the France coach, speaks in front of journalists at the Fields of Dreams stadium in Knysna yesterday.
Raymond Domenech, the France coach, speaks in front of journalists at the Fields of Dreams stadium in Knysna yesterday.

KNYSNA // France's World Cup team refused to train yesterday in protest against Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the squad. Anelka was kicked off the team on Saturday for a profanity-laced tirade against Raymond Domenech, the coach, whose tactics and management skills have been called into question.

"The French Football Federation [FFF] did not at any time try to protect the group. They took a decision uniquely based on facts reported by the press," Domenech said, reading a statement on behalf of the players. "As a consequence and to show our opposition to the decision taken by officials of the federation, all the players decided not to take part in today's training session." The latest chaotic scene also led to the resignation of Jean-Louis Valentin, the France team director.

"It's a scandal for the French, for the young people here. It's a scandal for the federation and the French team," Valentin 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," said Valentin, who walked away from the training field, got into a car and drove off. The team arrived at training as usual yesterday and got off the bus to greet fans, but Domenech and Patrice Evra, the France captain, stayed on the bus longer to talk.

When Domenech and Evra finally disembarked, Robert Duverne, the fitness coach, was on the field putting down training cones. Evra then got into an argument with Duverne and Domenech walked over to intervene. Duverne then stormed off, throwing his accreditation badge to the ground. Evra then handed a letter to the press officer, and the players, en masse, boarded the team bus and drew the curtains. The bus left shortly after Domenech's speech, by which time most of the 200 fans were already walking away.

"Out of respect for the people who came to watch the training session, we decided to go to meet these supporters," Domenech said, reading the statement. "Each of us will do all he can, of course, but also in a collective sense, to ensure that the French team gets its honour back on Tuesday night with a good performance at last." In their first two matches at the World Cup, France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and then lost 2-0 to Mexico, but they can still advance to the round of 16 with a strong win over hosts South Africa, as long as Uruguay and Mexico do not draw in the other Group A match.

Christian Teinturier, the vice-president of the FFF, was stunned by what happened. He had objected to Domenech carrying on as coach of France after the European Championship two years ago, when France went out at the group stage. "I confess that I understand nothing," he said. "We're in another world here. French football is in a catastrophic situation." Earlier yesterday, Frank Ribery said the Anelka affair had hit the squad hard.

"Of course things have been blown apart," the midfielder said on French TV. "It's France that is suffering. I am suffering. Everyone in the whole world is mocking us now. I'm gutted, because we're not playing football any more. The French team is a childhood dream, an honour, and since Euro 2008 I've been suffering." * AP