French government plans to halt games if the national anthem is jeered have been described as “absurd”, by Michel Platini, president of UEFA.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered that any match in France be halted if the “Marseillaise” is booed – after the jeering of the national anthem before Tuesday’s international between France and Tunisia in Paris.
“If you start halting matches because there are whistles during the anthem then you could also halt a match as soon as a player is jeered or a goalkeeper is booed after a clearance. It’s absurd,” Platini said in an interview with Le Monde.
“Once again, football has been taken hostage by politicians because this business about the whistling has become a political affair which has nothing to do with sport,” he added.
“Thirty years ago, when I played with the France team, the Marseillaise was whistled at every venue. But at the time, politicians were not interested in football and it didn’t upset anyone.”
The whistles were merely part of fans’ rivalry in football, he said.
“On other occasions, I’m sure the same young people who jeered the Marseillaise on Tuesday night sang the national anthem when France played a game during the European championships or the World Cup,” he added.
Many of the 60,000 crowd on Tuesday were Tunisian and some booed when the names of the French players were announced in the stadium before kickoff, reaching a crescendo for Hatem Ben Arfa, who though born to Tunisian parents, opted to play for France.
Sarkozy and fellow politicians reacted with shock and anger at the booing and whistling.
Jean-Pierre Escalettes, president of the French Football Federation, admitted that suspending matches would not be easy.
“Evacuating a stadium when the national anthem is jeered is now something we have to do,” Escalettes told AFP.
“It’s difficult but not impossible, with the police, the ministry and federation working hand in hand.
“We need to get to work so we know what we have to do if there’s a crisis.”