PARIS - A
threat by FIFA on Tuesday to
ban France's national and club teams from international
competition if the government did not stay out of football affairs
failed to stop political debate over France's World Cup debacle.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter warned
that football's governing
body would suspend the French Football Federation (FFF) if
France's politicians interfered in its business.
If France were suspended, the
country would be banned from
international tournaments and French clubs could not take part
in European competitions.
The threat came as a National Assembly spokeswoman said
coach Raymond Domenech, whose contract ended after the finals,
and FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes, who has quit his post,
would appear at a parliamentary commission on Wednesday.
French sports minister Roselyne
Bachelot spoke before that
commission on Tuesday and said the government was determined to
preserve the independence of the FFF.
"Under no circumstances should
political circles interfere
in the ruling by sports authorities," Bachelot told the
commission, which has no power to take sanctions.
"I am determined to protect the
Federation against any form
of interference," she added.
Escalettes quit on Monday in the wake of France's disastrous
showing in South Africa in which they were knocked out at the
opening group stage, saying the decision was his own, but
Bachelot had said last week his resignation was "unavoidable".
Blatter spelt out he would not
tolerate the French
government or president getting involved in the running of football.
"In France they have
made an 'affaire d'Etat' with football,
but football remains in the hands of the federation," Blatter
said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
"We will help the national
association and if it cannot be
solved by consultation then the only thing we have is to suspend
the federation," he added.
FIFA briefly suspended Greece in
2006, and has threatened
action against the football associations of Poland, Portugal and
Spain in recent years because of government interference.
France's World Cup group stage
exit, marred by the players'
decision to boycott a training session in support of expelled
striker Nicolas Anelka, has sparked a passionate debate in the
country, with senior politicians getting involved.
Such was the national angst that
President Nicolas Sarkozy
urged a soccer shakeup and met former team captain Thierry
Committee (CNOSF) president Denis Masseglia
made it clear, however, that the FFF, not politicians, should
oversee the necessary wholesale review.
"We must agree on the principles
we have to follow but it's
up to soccer people to decide what's good for their sport,"
Masseglia told Reuters.
a new team coach and soon a change in chief, French
football is attempting a fresh start which was the only option
after their catastrophic World Cup campaign.
Domenech, whose traumatic six-year
tenure ended with
France's elimination, will now make way for Laurent Blanc, a
prominent member of France's 1998 World Cup-winning squad.
Escalettes has left the picture
too, paying the price for
France's bad behaviour at the World Cup but also for supporting
Domenech in spite of a flop at the Euro 2008 tournament in
Austria and Switzerland.
FFF president will officially resign at a council
meeting on Friday in Paris at which Blanc should be presented
with a two-year contract and the mission to qualify the team for
the 2012 European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
Escalettes should be replaced at
first by a caretaker
president until an election is organised. The favourite to
succeed him is senior FFF official Jacques Lambert, who
masterminded France's successful bid to host Euro 2016.
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