Two months before the 2022 World Cup, French football in turmoil
The final stage of the Blues before the World Cup-2022 did not start under the best auspices. French football has continued to make headlines in recent weeks due to several scandals. Coach Didier Deschamps also has to deal with a wave of injuries.
The French football team does not approach the World Cup-2022, which will take place in two months in Qatar, with the greatest serenity. For several weeks, French football has indeed been in the eye of the storm: while coach Didier Deschamps is already faced with a rain of player absences, the French Football Federation (FFF) must also face extra- sports.
« Never, not even in 2010, had the French team advanced towards a World Cup in this spoiled and deleterious atmosphere, so uncertain of the forces it will be able to muster, overloaded showcase of a house which is not more held, or more as it should be », summarized the journalist of L’Équipe Vincent Duluc in his editorial of Tuesday, September 20, referring to the fiasco of the World Cup-2010 in South Africa. Reigning world champion, the tricolor selection seems very fragile. Overview of this complicated context.
The president of the Federation pinned
French football is at its peak. The president of the Federation, Noël Le Graët, is under fire from critics after the publication of an investigation by the magazine So Foot. The latter primarily overwhelms the management of President Noël Le Graët, 80 years old and in office since 2011. Re-elected last year for a new term, the Breton leader, who overcame lymphoid leukemia, is described as a responsible overtaken by the events.
Testimonies on condition of anonymity depict him as having « lost the thread », « less lively than before », « in complete decay, unable to work ». The magazine mainly evokes, on the strength of anonymous testimonies, the sending by Le Graët of SMS of a sexual nature to employees of the FFF. According to a source interviewed by So Foot, several women have resigned from the body in recent years because they felt « sexually harassed, but also morally ».
Asked by the newspaper l’Équipe about rumors of resignation, Noël le Graët kicked in touch: « Not even in a dream! ». The Federation also reacted by announcing the filing of a complaint « for defamation against the magazine So Foot because of the seriously defamatory accusations » of the article.
But these sufficiently serious accusations prompted the Ministry of Sports to launch an audit after an interview last Friday between the Minister of Sports Amélie Oudéa-Castera and Noël Le Graët, in the presence of the director general of the FFF , Florence Hardouin, at the headquarters of the ministry. « The Minister told them that she was going to initiate a mission from the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research (IGESR) to audit and control the management of the Federation and compliance with the obligations that attached to it, » the sports ministry said in a statement.
The issue of image rights
The start, Monday, of the Blues internship at Clairefontaine was also disrupted by a showdown between star striker Kylian Mbappé and the Federation. Dissatisfied with the management of the collective image rights of the players of the France team, the PSG player relaunched the debate by announcing, in a press release, that he would not take part in a marketing operation planned for Tuesday at Clairefontaine. . The child of Bondy wishes to be able to keep the choice of brands with which his image is associated. In addition, being one of the leading players of the French team, he is always very much in demand by partners during advertising operations.
The president of the FFF Noël Le Graët, who had warned in recent months that he did not intend to renegotiate the charter governing these rights before the World Cup, came to Clairefontaine to talk to the players after their first training session. In the evening, the Federation finally folded by announcing that it was committed « to revise, as soon as possible, the convention inherent in the rights to the image which binds it to its players in selection ». « The FFF is delighted to work on the outlines of a new agreement which will allow it to ensure its interests while taking into consideration the concerns and legitimate convictions unanimously expressed by its players », she adds in a press release.
For So Foot, Kylian Mbappé therefore appears as « a triumphant » and above all as « a total player whose vocation is to control all aspects of his career, everywhere, including at Clairefontaine ». The magazine also points out that the player has certainly taken advantage of « the weakness of the supervisory institution, now placed under the gaze of the Ministry of Sports and the public, to impose its requirements ».
The family crisis at the Pogba also highlighted the unhealthy relations between a certain environment and French football. Mathias Pogba, Paul’s older brother, was indicted on Saturday for extortion in an organized gang and participation in a criminal conspiracy. The other four suspects, relatives of the Pogba brothers aged 27 to 36, were indicted in particular for extortion with a weapon, kidnapping in an organized gang and criminal association.
The French international had filed a complaint in July in Turin against his brother and childhood friends, whom he accuses of having wanted to extort large sums of money from him and of having threatened him with a weapon. « Their alleged involvement in this sordid file crystallizes the difficulty for many players, to keep certain members of their entourage at a distance with parasitic behavior, especially when the fortune of beautiful contracts is flowing », summarizes the newspaper l’Équipe.
In this file, also appears the name of Kylian Mbappé. According to Paul Pogba, his blackmailers wanted to discredit him by broadcasting messages in which he allegedly asked a marabout to « cast a spell » on the PSG striker, which he disputes.
Blues in court
The image of the Blues has also been deeply damaged by other cases. Another pillar of Didier Deschamps’ team, Karim Benzema is a big favorite for the awarding of the Ballon d’Or on October 17. But the Real Madrid center-forward was sidelined for a long time from the France team because of his involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena « sextape » affair, before returning during the Euro- 2021. Sentenced by the criminal court for complicity in attempted blackmail, Benzema gave up appealing, confirming his one-year suspended prison sentence.
Crowned world champion with the France team in 2018, defender Benjamin Mendy is on trial in England after multiple rape charges. The trial, which opened in early August, is ongoing.
On the ground, the hour is also stormy. Convalescing after his right knee operation in early September, Paul Pogba is part of the long list of injuries to the French team. A few weeks before the start of the World Cup, Didier Deschamps must deal with a cascade of packages. « The bad luck to DD », ironically the newspaper l’Equipe, a nod to his usual luck.
Captain Hugo Lloris (right thigh injury), left-back Theo Hernandez (right thigh tear) and defender Lucas Digne (right ankle edema), added to an already long list – counting including Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez, N’Golo Kanté, Kingsley Coman, Karim Benzema and Adrien Rabiot.
With this dozen injured for this final gathering of the Blues before the World Cup-2022, the France team has five novices: Randal Kolo Muani, Youssouf Fofana, Alban Lafont, Benoît Badiashile and Adrien Truffert.
A coach under pressure
The move of the World Cup to autumn (November 20-December 18) has an impact on the calendar: the usual pre-tournament preparation camp is dropped and the September matches against Austria on Thursday and Denmark on Sunday serve as a final trial run for Didier Deschamps’ band.
France completely missed in June (two defeats, two draws) during the League of Nations. Already out of the race for victory in this competition of which they were defending champions, the Blues hope to avoid relegation to the second division of this event launched in 2018 to replace the traditional friendly matches of international gatherings. For this, they must avoid new missteps against Austria, at the Stade de France, and in Copenhagen against Denmark. Especially since finishing at the bottom of the group would deprive France of seeded status for qualifying for Euro-2024.