JOHANNESBURG - FIFA warned French
politicians on Saturday to beware of meddling in the running of
football amid national soul-searching and high-level meetings over
the traumatic exit of Les Bleus from the World Cup.
"I spoke to the sports minister's office and told them to be
very careful," FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said.
"There is an autonomy of the sporting movement, and there
can't be any political interference in what's happened."
The South African campaign of the 2006 runners-up could
hardly have been worse. Players revolted over the expulsion from
the squad of striker Nicolas Anelka for insulting the coach, and
France came bottom of their group after a draw and two defeats.
Such is the national angst that President Nicolas Sarkozy
urged a football shakeup and met team captain Thierry Henry.
Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot has slammed "immature gang
leaders" in the camp and said French Football Federation chief
Jean-Pierre Escalettes's resignation is "unavoidable."
"We will definitely look at what France is doing," Valcke, a
Frenchman himself, told a news briefing at the World Cup
headquarters in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.
"Long story short - it means that no one can ask for
someone to resign. The person is elected. If he has the feeling
that in what he has done he failed, then he can resign. And then
elections will have to be organised."
Just like FIFA interventions in countries such as Kenya or
Iraq, there would be no special status for France if it came to
that, Valcke said.
"It is not because it's a European country that we should
have a different approach," he said.
"They can meet, they can
discuss, they can find ways to make sure that this will not
happen, they can ask for apologies from the different people
involved. But any time there is interference, FIFA will react."
Valcke later told Reuters Sarkozy's meeting with Henry and
other high-level contacts over the French football fiasco were an
understandable reflection of the national trauma.
"It's the French way of dealing with a situation somewhere,
if I may say so," he said.
"Maybe the world took it as a bad joke. In France, it was
not a bad joke, it was a sad story and a lot of people in France
have the feeling that they have been cheated by these players."
Officials should, however, know where to draw the line, he
"Our politicians are clever enough. It's one of the
countries of diplomacy, France, where I am sure they will
understand and they know where they can go and what they have to
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