Ex-France coach rips rebellious players
PARIS -- Former France coach Raymond Domenech broke his silence about the team's World Cup debacle, labeling the players "stupid brats" for going on strike at a training session to make "a laughingstock" of their country.
Domenech's bitter six-year tenure as France's coach ended after last year's World Cup in South Africa. He had previously declined to comment on the incident.
He now says in an interview, to be published Wednesday in L'Express magazine, that the players were to blame for ridiculing a once-proud national team that won the 1998 World Cup and European Championship in 2000.
"They knew perfectly well what they were doing. They even closed the bus curtains to hide from the cameras," Domenech said in excerpts on the magazine's website. "Looking back, I see them above all as a bunch of irresponsible, stupid brats."
The team shocked the nation and provoked the ire of politicians and fans by refusing to train after Nicolas Anelka had been sent home for insulting Domenech during halftime of France's second group game against Mexico.
Anelka subsequently was suspended for 18 matches by the French soccer federation. Former captain Patrice Evra (five games), Franck Ribery (three games) and Jeremy Toulalan (one game) also received bans for their part in the boycott.
On the day of the strike, hundreds of locals from the town of Knysna gave the French players a rousing reception when they stepped off the team bus. After quickly shaking hands and signing autographs, they all returned to their bus.
"At that point, I'm telling myself that they've gone mad and they don't realize [what they are doing]," Domenech said. "Now I know I was wrong."
Evra also clashed with fitness coach Robert Duverne, forcing Domenech to intervene.
While Knysna locals looked on in confusion, French fans back home watched the scenes unfold live on television.
Further adding to the drama, Domenech then unfolded a sheet of paper and slowly mumbled a speech written collectively by the players explaining their reasons for striking.
"We'd been there for more than an hour. Somebody had to take responsibility and stop this masquerade," Domenech said. "We were the laughingstock of the world. I said, 'Stop this, I can't take any more of it!' "
Domenech, however, admits he made mistakes at the World Cup.
"I messed up. I didn't choose the right players or find the right words," he said. "I don't accept criticism from politicians, nor from former players who have turned to journalism, but that doesn't stop me making my own assessment."
Domenech, who was replaced by Laurent Blanc after the tournament, often has been derided throughout his time in charge.
Having led France to the World Cup final in 2006, he struggled when playmaker Zinedine Zidane retired and midfielder Patrick Vieira was out injured. France went out of both the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup without winning a game.
Fans were angered when the French federation voted to keep him on in a secret ballot after Euro 2008.
"I'm not the moron that's been described," Domenech said.
Domenech has been coaching a children's soccer team in western Paris, but has not made other plans.
"I still need to sweep away certain memories ... It's like love: you need to forget a woman so that you can love another one," he said. "I've been offered things for the theater, for the cinema. Nothing on television, no.
"Honestly, can you imagine me in a reality TV show?"
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press