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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The scandal surrounding FFF president Noël Le Graët

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Even the most active followers and supporters of French football will admit that the number of scandals that crop up each year is extreme. 2023 is looking no different so far after a war of words between French Football Federation (FFF) president Noël Le Graët and Zinedine Zidane.

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The situation has seen Kylian Mbappe weigh in with his thoughts and now the president has been forced to step down from his role, leaving French football with another distraction so soon after losing the 2022 Qatar World Cup final against Argentina.

Here is an explainer of how the scandal unfolded and who has been speaking up about it.

Earlier in January, the 81-year-old Le Graët was asked by French radio station RMC about how he would have felt if Zinedine Zidane had called him to try and take the France job. Didier Deschamps recently signed another contract extension to last until 2026.

Le Graët responded emphatically, saying: “I wouldn’t even have taken his call. To tell him what? ‘Hello sir. Don’t worry. Look for another club. I just agreed a contract with Didier.’

“It’s up to him what he does. It’s not my business. I’ve never met him and we’ve never considered parting with Didier. He can go where he wants, to a club. He would have as many as he wants in Europe, a big club. But a national side is hardly credible, to my mind.”

On Monday, Le Graët did apologise for his comments towards Zidane who is viewed as a legend of French football. The apology came after Mbappe had tweeted: “Zidane is France, we don’t disrespect a legend like that” with a face palm emoji.

Considering the sway Mbappe has over French football, Le Graët then said: “I would like to apologise for these remarks, which absolutely do not reflect my views nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become.

“I gave an interview to [French radio station] RMC that I should not have given because they were looking for controversy by opposing Didier and Zinedine Zidane, two greats of French football. I admit that I made some clumsy remarks which created a misunderstanding.”

Luka Modric, Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema

Zidane won the Champions League as a player and manager with Real Madrid / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

The pressure started to build on Le Graët within French football and even from outside. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who has just retired from international football, told L’Equipe: “Some things are inappropriate. You cannot disrespect former France players, especially not a legend like Zinedine Zidane.”

There was even an official statement released by Real Madrid, a club that Zidane won La Liga and the Champions League with once as a player and then multiple other times as a coach.

The statement from Los Blancos said: “These remarks show a lack of respect for one of the most admired figures by football fans around the world and our club is awaiting an immediate correction. Zinedine Zidane, World and European champion representing his country, amongst many other honours, he embodies the values of the sport and has proven this throughout his professional career as a player and as a coach.”

As well as that, the head of the FFF’s ethics committee, Patrick Anton, also spoke to L’Equipe and said: “Le Graët has made comments that show he has lost some of his lucidity. He is a man who is tired, who needs to move on.”

On Wednesday, Le Graët agreed to step aside from his role pending an investigation from the Ministry of Sports. General manager Florence Hardouin was also removed and deputy vice-president Philippe Diallo has been placed in charge. Le Graët has received allegations about his private conduct in the past.

Female football agent Sonia Souid, 37, went public with allegations earlier this week that Le Graët was prepared to support her plan to develop women’s football but only if she became “close” to him.

He invited her to a meeting at his flat which he said the then head of women’s football, Brigitte Henriques would be at too, but when Souid arrived, it was just the two of them. “If we are close enough to each other, I will manage to put your ideas into practice,” said Le Graët, according to Souid’s account of the meeting.

“And it was as though I had received an enormous slap in the face. I saw myself as competent and legitimate, but I realised that the only thing which interested him were my two breasts and my arse. He just saw me as a girl whose only purpose was to get into bed with him.”

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