The French are revolting. Just ask President Sarkozy.
Distressed South Africans take heart. There has never been a better time to play France. Just ask president Nicolas Sarkozy. They’re revolting.
Yesterday’s open training session in picturesque Knysna featured a furious argument, a player boycott and the resignation of their federation’s managing director Jean-Louis Valentin. That’s a fairly ordinary day for the French at this World Cup.
Group A at this shock-laden tournament will go down to the wire on Tuesday - but when the hosts play the 1998 World Champions, three points for either side won’t be enough if Uruguay and Mexico fight out a draw in Phokeang.
But even if go down in history as the first home nation to fail to emerge from the group stages, BafanaBafana would consider a final triumph over the French in Bloemfontein a major step in the right direction after their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay.
And a win for the Rainbow Nation might just be on the cards after the latest episode in the French soap opera.
Already riven by all kinds of divisions under outgoing coach Raymond Domenech, tension reached boiling point on Friday when Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home by the French Football Federation.
Anelka was kicked out after French newspaper L’Equipe were told by a mole (“a traitor” if you ask Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra) what went on at half-time during last Thursday’s shock 2-0 defeat against Mexico. They said Anelka called Domenech “the son of a whore” in Polokwane. Anelka denied it and refused to apologise. Thanks very much Nicolas, and good night, said the FFF.
But today, after walking off the training field, the squad released a statement saying: "The players are unanimously against the French Football Federation's decision to expel Nicolas. But we will do everything individually and in a collective spirit against South Africa in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.”
And off they toddled. Revolting. Not that training was going particularly well anyway. Everything shuddered to a halt when captain Patrice Evra and fitness coach Robert Duverne had to be pulled apart byDomenech.
Duverne angrily threw his stopwatch away in an untimely outburst... and departed. The players decamped to the team bus before releasing their statement.
Then FFF boss Jean-Louis Valentin added to the chaos, announcing: "They don't want to train, it's a scandal. It's a scandal for French people, for the youngsters who came here to watch them train. I'm resigning, I'm leaving the Federation. I have nothing more to do here. I'm going back to Paris."
Asked if he was l’Equipe’s mole, a clearly distressed Valentin replied "no, no, no".
President Sarkozy’s advisor Henri Guaino said: “It's no longer football, it's no longer sport, it's no longer a team but I am not convinced that a political intervention would solve this kind of problem."
England’s John Terry, who is not revolting, added his opinion on team-mate Anelka just to help matters. Ignoring for a moment his side’s appalling showing at this World Cup so far, the former captain said: "Nico is a really good guy and he is a great player as well. Before he came to Chelsea, there was a lot of negative stuff written about him. But you won't find a better man in football.
"He is someone who is very quiet and been in the game a long time and knows his football. If he had something to say to me, I would stand up and listen."
Neal Collins is in South Africa to complain about England's performance and promote his first novel A GAME APART. See www.nealcollins.co.uk.