French team on brink of collapse

Emergency meeting called as politicians condemn French players for walking out on strike ahead of crucial match

20 June 2010

AN EMERGENCY meeting has been called in South Africa today to try to resolve a conflict within the French national football team.

Politicians have publicly condemned the team after they walked out on strike yesterday, refusing to train ahead of tomorrow afternoon's make-or-break match against South Africa.

The players refused to work to protest against the decision to send striker Nicolas Anelka home for alleged verbal abuse against manager Raymond Domenech during France's 2-0 defeat by Mexico last Thursday.

Health and Sport Minister Roselyne Bachelot said she understood the public's "indignation" and has called a crisis meeting with Domenech, team captain Patrice Evra and French Football Federation Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

FFF delegate Jean-Louis Valentin quit yesterday, saying he was "sickened" by the players' strike.

He said: "What has happened is a scandal. It's a scandal for the French public, for the young people who have come here to watch them train. I'm quitting my job, quitting the federation. I've nothing more to do here. I'm going back to Paris."

In a statement, the FFF presented "its excuses for the unacceptable behaviour of the players representing our country".

Budget Minister Eric Woerth, a keen football fan, said: "Like everyone else, I am saddened by this pitiful event."

Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner said the French team's image was "dreadful".

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said she was "concerned" but did not want "to add to the controversy as the team have a match to play on Tuesday".

France will need to beat the World Cup's home nation and hope Uruguay and Mexico do not draw to stand any chance of staying in the tournament.
UK bookmaker William Hill is taking bets on whether the team will turn up.

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