The shameful conduct of the French World Cup squad in South Africa has tarnished the reputation of the overpaid, brattish players concerned, and French football in general. Now, leaving aside the meaningless exclusion from a friendly, comes the reckoning. Colin Randall reports …
One of my regular newsagents had sold out of L’Equipe. It was first item on the French TF1 news last night. The French Football Federation has sent five players to a disciplinary commission for their part in the “billionaires’ strike”, as one French magazine called it.
In the hall of greater shame (since 23 players were actually involved, all culpable to some extent) we find
* Patrice Evra and Franck Ribery, as captain and vice (oops) captain
* Nicolas Anelka as the man whose foulmouthed rant led to the ludicrous mutiny
* Eric Abidal, who had the gall to refuse to play in the match against South Africa
* Jeremy Toulalan, who got his press adviser to write the statement Raymond Domenech was, humiliatingly, left to read to the media after the squad’s refusal to descend from their bus, discard their earphones and train
L’Equipe‘s report suggests the FFF was mistaken in not following the recommendation of the “commission of information” that collective punishment would be appropriate.
I have no idea what sanctions will end up falling upon the guilty heads. The squad has already agreed – with or without ministerial encouragement – to forfeit a sizeable pool of sponsorship money.
French football would be damaged but not destroyed if none of the five, or others deemed later to be deserving of special retribution, ever played for their country again. But they wouldn’t necessarily care. What would hurt most would, as usual, be further monetary loss – on a scale designed to hurt quite a lot. And that, says L’Equipe, is the one penalty they don’t face.
I’d have let them all argue their cases before the disciplinary commission and, if innocent, be exonerated.
And then, if the commission decided they did merit punishment, it could have tested the players’ alleged commitment to the French shirt by imposing fines equivalent to at least three months’ club wages – all the money to go to sports projects for disadvantaged kids in the banlieues. Anyone who declined to pay up could have been be banned for life from Les Bleus.
What a shame that cannot happen. From Le Figaro, I learn that the scale of available punishments apparently runs from being ordered to undertake some activity in the public interest (aka that old community service get-out-of-jail card) to suspension for a period/s to be determined.
One last thought: I am not sure whether Djibril Cissé played any prominent part in the revolt. He was not known as a calming influence in the Stadium of Light dressing room. But how relieved I am that no current Sunderland player was involved in the tawdry episode.