Although the World
The French team’s shambolic showing in South Africa, on and off the pitch, has lead to a parliamentary hearing in which the now former France Coach, Raymond Domenech, and former President of the French Football Federation (FFF) since Monday, Jean-Pierre Escalettes, have been asked to explain why the campaign was such an unmitigated disaster. Quite why the government needs to know why the country’s football players and its coaching and backroom staff were so dreadfully unprofessional, self-obsessed and incongruous in South Africa is rather perplexing, and in calling this hearing, the French government are in fact putting the immediate future of French football at an unnecessary risk. It is a clear FIFA ruling that political interference in the running of a country’s football federation is strictly prohibited, and if found guilty of having too much of an influence, the French national side, as well as French club sides, could be suspended from competing in international competitions.
The key issue FIFA seem concerned about is whether the French Sports Minister, Roselyne Bachelot, persuaded Escalettes to step down from his position as President of the FFF, something he did on Monday. A government spokesman denied this had been the case yesterday, but if FIFA are serious about their rulings, a probing into what has gone on involving the government in recent days surely has to take place. French football has become a carousel of disaster, complete with shame, interference and everyone knowing best. A ban for France’s club sides from European competition and its national team from international tournaments would signal a low no-one could ever have imagined. However, with Michel Platini as President of UEFA, one of France’s greatest ever players could have some influence in persuading FIFA to go easy on an already floored footballing nation – however wrong that may be.
Nigeria risk the same consequences as France, as Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s President, announced he was intending to withdraw his country’s national team from international competition for two years in order to reassess the Nigeria Football Federation’s setup, and address the issues that resulted in Nigeria not winning a game in South Africa and finishing bottom of Group B. Although Nigeria’s stance and situation is very different to France’s, in that the country, or rather the President, wants a voluntary hiatus to sort things out, FIFA could still slap a ban on Nigerian club teams and prevent any Nigerian referees from officiating on the international stage, as well as stopping other officials attending FIFA meetings as a result of this political interference. All this begs the question: is it actually a sensible rule? Probably not. Particularly if it was ruled Nigerian clubs and officials should be punished in the form of being ostracised because of the President’s pushiness. The whole point of the World Cup coming to Africa was to develop and advance the game there, and make the continent feel a part of world football’s fabric. We will have to keep an eye on what happens with France and Nigeria, but one thing is for certain – football and politics are always likely to mix in some way or another.