Domenech faces inquest

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PARIS, June 30- France is gearing up for a pivotal few days in its football history, as outgoing coach Raymond Domenech begins their World Cup post mortem with a hearing in front of the country's politicians on Wednesday.Domenech and ex-French Football Federation (FFF) president Jean-Pierre Escalettes are to address a hearing of the National Assembly’s Cultural Affairs commission, called to discuss the disastrous showing of the French squad in South Africa.

Domenech’s testimony is keenly anticipated, with fans, pundits and politicians alike hoping that he will be more frank in his appraisal of France’s failings than during his six-year tenure as head coach.

A master of the evasive answer, Domenech refused to be drawn into an analysis of what had gone wrong for France after their World Cup fiasco came to an end with a 2-1 loss to hosts South Africa in their last group game.

"It’s impossible to assess things like that, in the heat of the moment," he said in his post-match press conference.

"We’re surprised, but we’re at the disappointment stage, not the explanation stage. I’ll do the assessments with the directors, the staff and the players."

Domenech’s recaltricance with the media, his refusal to discuss tactics and his insistence that everything was going to plan despite ample evidence to the contrary made him a deeply unpopular figure in France.

His stock plummeted even further when he was shown on television refusing to shake hands with South Africa’s coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

"When you see the coach of the France team not shaking the hand of the opposition coach at the end of the match, I think of the hundreds of thousands of coaches who, every Sunday, explain to players from the very youngest age groups that you always shake your opponent’s hand," said French Education Minister Luc Chatel.

Putting his own behaviour to one side, Domenech will certainly be required to explain how he managed to lose complete control of his players in the aftermath of Nicolas Anelka’s exclusion from the squad for clashing with the coach at half-time of their 2-0 defeat by Mexico.

Domenech has already expressed his opposition to the players’ decision to boycott an open training session in protest at Anelka’s punishment, branding it a "stupidity without name" prior to the game against South Africa.

His hearing will in any case be his final act as France coach, six years after he took over in July 2004.

France hopes to quickly turn the page on the Domenech era, with 1998 World Cup-winning player Laurent Blanc due to be officially confirmed as his successor on July 2.

Escalettes, who announced his resignation on Monday, will be replaced by a deputy until fresh elections can be held.

Members of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing UMP party are pressing for a commission of inquiry into the World Cup debacle, while the president himself has said that those responsible for the disaster should be held accountable.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, however, has warned the French government against any meddling in football affairs and said any government interference could result in the FFF being suspended from FIFA.

"Political interference in the national associations will be dealt with by FIFA no matter the size of the country," Blatter said on Tuesday.

"French football can rely on FIFA in case of political interference, even if it’s at the presidential level. France made an ‘affaire d’etat’ of football but it remains in the hands of the federation."

FIFA has twice suspended Iraq from international competition due to government interference, with the most recent ban being overturned in March this year.

Poland were threatened with a similar ban after the government suspended their football association as part of a crackdown on corruption in October 2008.

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