Le Graet 'admitted he'd been an 'idiot' over Zidane 'phone call' row

Noel Le Graet ‘admitted he’d been an ‘idiot’ over Zinedine Zidane ‘phone call’ row and then burst into tears’ during stormy meeting that led to him being suspended as French FA president… as he dismissed government probe into his conduct

  • Noel Le Graet stepped down as president of the French Football Federation
  • It follows allegations about his conduct and the Zinedine Zidane phone call row
  • Details of 2.5-hour meeting in Paris that decided Le Graet’s fate have emerged
  • 81-year-old admitted his regret over his dismissive comments about Zidane
  • He reportedly became tearful as it became clear he would be stepping down 
  • It comes with the French Sports Ministry investigating his conduct in office 

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet ‘burst into tears and confessed he’d ‘been an idiot” over his dismissive comments about Zinedine Zidane in the meeting that led to him being suspended.

Le Graet, 81, said ‘he wouldn’t even pick up the phone’ if Zidane called him to discuss succeeding Didier Deschamps as France national team manager – comments he later admitted were ‘clumsy’.

Amid ongoing allegations about his private conduct, Le Graet agreed to step aside from his job at a high-level meeting of the federation’s executive committee on Wednesday.

Noel Le Graet has been suspended from his role as French Football Federation president

The 81-year-old is pictured leaving the meeting at the FFF headquarters that sealed his fate

Le Graet was greeted by protests as he arrived for the meeting in Paris on Wednesday

It comes with the French Ministry of Sports investigating Le Graet’s behaviour.

Deputy vice-president Philippe Diallo is to take over Le Graet’s role and also that of general manager Florence Hardouin, who was also removed.

L’Equipe’s account of a stormy meeting says Le Graet claimed he had ‘done nothing wrong’ and predicted the Ministry of Sports ‘will find nothing at all’ in their investigation.

But Le Graet then reportedly issued a full apology for his comments on Zidane and admitted to the committee ‘I’ve been an idiot’ and was moved to tears as he spoke.

The meeting also included Le Graet telling Eric Borghini, the president of the Mediterranean Leagues, to ‘shut up’.

Le Graet was dismissive of Zinedine Zidane becoming France national team boss 

Zinedine Zidane is seen as a national hero following his heroics in the 1998 World Cup final

However, Borghini also told L’Equipe that the meeting ‘was a heartfelt discussion, a bit like a family discussion.’

The 2.5 hour meeting in the FFF’s Paris offices led to Le Graet stepping aside.

A statement from the FFF read: ‘Noel Le Graet, in agreement with the executive committee of the FFF meeting today in Paris, has chosen to withdraw from his duties as president of the Federation until the final communication of the audit carried out by the Ministry of Sports, and awaiting its analysis by the Comex (executive committee) of the FFF.

‘The Comex of the FFF has also decided to lay off Florence Hardouin, general manager of the FFF, as a precautionary measure. As of today, Philippe Diallo, deputy vice-president of the FFF, will act as interim manager of these two functions.’

The drama began when Le Graet, talking about whether Deschamps would continue after as France national team coach, was dismissive of Zidane.

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

Kylian Mbappe took issue with the FFF president’s comments and claimed ‘Zidane is France’

Le Graet (L) claimed the board ‘never considered parting ways’ with Didier Deschamps

‘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.

‘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.’

Deschamps has now agreed a contract extension until 2026 but Le Graet’s harsh comments about Zidane, who scored a brace in France’s 1998 World Cup triumph, touched a nerve with players and pundits.

France star Kylian Mbappe wrote on Twitter that ‘Zidane is France, we don’t disrespect the legend like that.’ 

France’s sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera demanded an apology for Le Graet’s ‘shameful lack of respect.’

Former Vice Chairman Philippe Diallo has been named as the acting interim chairman

In response, Le Graet said: ‘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 [French radio station] RMC that I should not have given because they were looking for controversy by opposing Didier and Zinedine Zidane, two greats of French football.’

Things went from bad to worse for Le Graet just days later, after a sports agent accused the FFF president of improper conduct over several years, saying he only was interested in her sexually. 

The agent, 37-year-old Sonia Souid, said in an interview with L’Equipe that Le Graet repeatedly tried to approach her from 2013-17.

Sports agent Sonia Souid, 37, said Le Graet treated her like a ‘piece of candy’ 

She said that while she wanted to develop a business relationship with Le Graet to promote women’s soccer, he was more interested in leaving messages on her voicemail late in the evening to invite her to drink champagne.

France’s sports minister ordered an investigation into the federation in September after the body said it would file a defamation lawsuit against So Foot magazine, which reported that Le Graet allegedly harassed several female employees.

In addition to his role at the French soccer federation, Le Graet also has been a member of the FIFA Council since being appointed by UEFA in May 2019. The position pays $250,000 annually.

Le Graet is currently a candidate for another four-year term on FIFA’s ruling committee. He is being challenged for the seat by Portuguese soccer federation president Fernando Gomes. The election is set for April 5, when UEFA member nations meet in Lisbon.

Le Graet’s candidacy must pass a FIFA-run eligibility and integrity check. He can stand for election despite UEFA imposing an age limit of 70 for candidates to its own executive committee.

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article