Former France coach Raymond Domenech has spoken out about the dismal World Cup showing, labeling the players “stupid brats” for going on strike at a training session to make “a laughing stock” of their country.
Domenech’s six-year reign as France coach ended after last year’s World Cup in South Africa and he had previously declined to speak about the events of last summer.
He now says in an interview published by L’Express magazine that the players were to blame for ridiculing a team that won the 1998 World Cup and European Championship in 2000.
“They knew perfectly well what they were doing. They even closed the bus curtains to hide from the cameras,” Domenech said in extracts on the magazine’s website. “Looking back, I see them above all as a bunch of irresponsible, stupid brats.”
The squad angered fans by refusing to train after Nicolas Anelka had been sent home for insulting Domenech during half-time of France’s group game against Mexico.
Anelka was subsequently suspended for 18 matches by the French football federation. Former captain Patrice Evra (five games), Franck Ribery (three games) and Jeremy Toulalan (one game) were also banned for their involvement in the strike.
“At that point, I’m telling myself that they’ve gone mad and they don’t realize (what they are doing),” Domenech said. “Now I know I was wrong.”
Evra also clashed with fitness coach Robert Duverne, forcing Domenech to intervene before the situation deteriorated.
Domenech then unfolded a sheet of paper and slowly delivered a speech written collectively by the players explaining their reasons for refusing to train.
“We’d been there for more than an hour. Somebody had to take responsibility and stop this masquerade,” Domenech said. “We were the laughing stock of the world. I said, ‘Stop this, I can’t take any more of it!”’
Domenech, however, accepts he made mistakes at the World Cup.
“I messed up. I didn’t chose the right players or find the right words,” he said. “I don’t accept criticism from politicians, nor from former players who have turned to journalism, but that doesn’t stop me making my own assessment.”
Domenech has been coaching a children’s football team in western Paris, but has not decided where his future lies.
“I still need to sweep away certain memories … It’s like love: you need to forget a woman so that you can love another one,” he said. “I’ve been offered things for the theatre, for the cinema. Nothing on television, no.
“Honestly, can you imagine me in a reality TV show?”