In Salut! Sunderland‘s French Fancies series, we take a look at a display of candour of a type rarely encountered in the English game …
It seems almost unimaginable in the Premier League.
A player is suspected of forcing his sexual attentions on a woman in a motorway service area. Far from clamming up behind an absurd wall of “none of your business” silence, the club’s chairman talks openly about his exasperation with the player’s general conduct.
Not for a moment does he second-guess what the police investigation will uncover. The player remains innocent in the eyes of the law until courts decide otherwise. And also in the eyes of Jean-Claude Dassier, chairman of l’OM, or Marseille or even Marseilles, the best-supported club side in France and Manchester United’s Champions’ League opponents next Tuesday.
But that doesn’t stop Dassier laying into the accused player, Brandao, for his attitude towards repaying the fabulous wages he undoubtedly earns from being able to play football quite well.
In a frank interview with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe, Dassier says he assumes no right to involve himself in players’ private lives unless there are consequences – as in this case – for the club and its image.
As things stand, he adds, Brandao is almost sure to face disciplinary action, and possibly a swift transfer to an eastern European club, when he returns having missed the Man Utd game from an agreed weeklong visit home to Brazil. It is not clear whether he will ever again appear in Marseille colours.
Whatever the truth of the criminal allegations, Brandao’s conduct is, for Dassier, unacceptable. He even points to precedent, the newspaper helpfully adding a footnote that he let it be known that the player “n’a pas une hygiène confirme aux exigences de son métier“.
If rudimentary French suggests that makes Brandao a dirty sod, think again. Hygiène in this context means his lifestyle, and it is clearly not one of which the club chairman approves.
Talking generally about OM players, he says they have been warned that anything approaching a repetition of “l’affaire Brandao” will lead to punishment.
“It’s not the occasional visit to a nightclub that shocks me,” he says. “The question for me is how many days before a match it happens and what they consume. They’re young, handsome and are doing well with their lives, But when you are a star you are in the public eye. You cannot allow yourself to behave no matter how when you carry the good name of OM.”
L’affaire Brandao is a one-off. The player may be entirely innocent of any illegal acts. But for all his ability as a footballer, he doesn’t impress his club chairman.
It is not in quite the same league but when English players, or players with English clubs, go astray, the clubs issue indignant “no comments”; when they perpetrate career-threatening injuries on opponents, it’s “he hasn’t a malicious bone in his body”.
Three cheers, therefore, for a spot of Gallic honesty from Jean-Claude Dassier.
If all clubs were as candid in such matters, football would not be in the parlous state it is, with public perceptions of arrogance, ignorance and greed threatening to overwhelm our love of the game.