French federation boss under fire for ‘clumsy’ Zidane comments

Publish: 7:48 PM, January 9, 2023 | Update: 7:48 PM, January 9, 2023

French Football Federation president Noel Le

Graet came under fire on Monday as he was forced to apologise for what he
dubbed his own “clumsy remarks” about Zinedine Zidane’s potential interest in
coaching the France national team.

Le Graet had quipped dismissively in an interview to French radio station RMC
on Sunday that he “wouldn’t even have taken his call on the phone” when asked
whether Zidane had rung him to express an interest in taking over as coach
from Didier Deschamps.

That drew criticism from France and Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe,
who said Le Graet had shown “a lack of respect” with his comments.

Real Madrid, where Zidane enjoyed decorated spells as a player and a coach,
also hit out at Le Graet, while French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera
waded in too, demanding an apology.

The 81-year-old head of the FFF duly did apologise on Monday, Le Graet
saying: “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 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.”

Deschamps’ contract expired after the World Cup in Qatar, where reigning
champions France lost to Argentina in a penalty shoot-out after a thrilling
final on December 18.

However, Deschamps — who took over in 2012 — on Saturday signed a new deal
to stay in the job until the 2026 World Cup.

That means former Real Madrid coach Zidane, who had reportedly shown an
interest in succeeding Deschamps, will have to wait for his chance.

Asked in the RMC interview whether Zidane, who won the 1998 World Cup as a
player alongside Deschamps and was a runner-up in 2006, had called him in
recent days, Le Graet dismissed him as having been a potential candidate.

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“I wouldn’t even have taken his call,” Le Graet said. “To tell him what?
‘Hello sir. Don’t worry. Look for another club. I just agreed a contract with

Le Graet also responded curtly to reports of Zidane’s interest in coaching
the Brazil team.

“I would be surprised if he left for there,” he said.

“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 Deschamps.

“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.”

– Government audit –

Zidane left Real in 2021 having won two La Liga titles and three consecutive
Champions League titles as manager of the Spanish giants.

“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,” Real said in a statement.

France’s build-up to the World Cup in Qatar was marred by accusations made
against Le Graet that he had mistreated employees at the federation.

The accusations appeared in the magazine So Foot, with one saying he had sent
text messages of a salacious nature to female employees.

Le Graet denied those accusations, with the FFF launching legal action
against the magazine.

However, the government launched an audit of the federation and Le Graet is
due to attend a hearing on Tuesday where he is expected to answer questions
about management practices at the Paris-based body.

Le Graet is a former socialist mayor of the small Brittany town of Guingamp
and then oversaw the rise of the local football club to a top-flight force
during his time as president.

He was elected president of the federation in 2011 and oversaw a revival of
the French national team’s reputation after their disastrous 2010 World Cup
campaign in South Africa, when they went out in the group stage after a
training ground mutiny by players.

His current mandate is due to expire in 2024 but he may now come under
pressure to step down sooner.