Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Sarkozy meets Thierry Henry over Cup fiasco

Football star Thierry Henry met Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysée palace on Thursday as the president demanded answers over the French team’s humiliating exit from the World Cup.

Henry flew in from South Africa and was taken in a limousine provided by the French presidency to meet with Sarkozy, who has drawn criticism for making football an affair of state after calling for heads to roll over the debacle.

No details were released from their meeting but the shamed players’ homecoming turned into a morbid spectacle as television channels broadcast live pictures of their team plane landing and cars whisking them away.

France reacted with a mix of humiliation and anger to the team’s elimination from the tournament which came after two defeats, one draw, a players’ strike and foul-mouthed squabbles in the dressing room.

Sarkozy, a big football fan, on Wednesday called a meeting of government ministers on the matter and asked them “to make sure that those responsible meet the consequences of this disaster,” a presidential statement said.

“He also asked ministers to see that no financial benefits are paid to any of the France team.”

Sarkozy’s opponents criticised him for interfering but press reports said that Henry, France’s top goal-scorer, had himself requested the meeting.

“That the president is taking charge of football is not a normal situation but we are not facing a normal situation,” said deputy Thierry Mariani, a member of Sarkozy’s UMP party.

“Football is part of our country’s image. Restoring our image is the head of state’s duty,” he said.

A group of non-governmental organisations including Oxfam said Sarkozy had scrapped a meeting with them to discuss this weekend’s Group of 20 summit, in order to make time for Henry.

The Elysée presidential palace insisted in a statement that the meeting had been shifted “not because of the president’s meeting with Thierry Henry … but because of constraints linked to the preparation of the G8 and G20 summits.”

Government spokesperson Luc Chatel savaged the team on Wednesday, saying they lacked “respect, team spirit, pride and enough dignity to wear the shirt of any club”. He singled out France’s unpopular
coach Raymond Domenech.

Many fans have written off the team, known as Les Bleus, as spoiled millionaires led by an incompetent coach and unworthy of the blue jersey worn by the 1998 world champions.

Tens of thousands of French fans across the country booed the team during Tuesday’s broadcast of their limp 2-1 defeat to South Africa, even cheering ironically when South Africa scored.

Florent Malouda — the only Frenchman to have found the back of the net in the tournament — promised that the players would work better with Domenech’s replacement, Laurent Blanc.

“Me, I’ll stay on,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper Le Parisien.

“We have a responsibility to rebuild what we have destroyed.” – AFP

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and get the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. For the latest updates and political analysis, sign up to our daily elections newsletter.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, a full year’s access is just R510, half the usual cost. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Khaya Koko: John Steenhuisen, please take a knee

The Democratic Alliance leader rebuking cricketer Quinton de Kock would be this election season’s greatest triumph

Paddy Harper: Will the Covid-19 cigarette ban come back to...

Flashbacks of nicotine deprivation and not poor service delivery may see a run on the polls on Monday

Eskom resorts to stage four load-shedding

Stage-four outages will continue until Friday after the loss of two units during the night, and three in total at Medupi, Kusile and Matla power plants tripping

DA-run metro favoured in citizen satisfaction survey

Cape Town emerged as the leader on overall citizen satisfaction for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Ekurhuleni

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…