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Domenech describes France's rebel players as 'stupid brats'

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Associated Press
2/15/2011 10:03:45 AM
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PARIS -- Former France coach Raymond Domenech has broken his silence over the World Cup debacle, labeling the players "stupid brats" for going on strike at a training session to make "a laughing stock" of their country.

Domenech's bitter six-year tenure as France coach ended after last year's World Cup in South Africa and he had previously declined to comment on the incident.

He now says in an interview to be published Wednesday in L'Express magazine that the players were to blame for ridiculing a once-proud national 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 shocked the nation and provoked the ire of politicians and fans by refusing to train after Nicolas Anelka had been sent home for insulting Domenech during halftime of France's second 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 part in the boycott.

On the day of the strike, hundreds of locals from the town of Knysna gave the French players a rousing reception when they stepped off the team bus. After quickly shaking hands and signing autographs, they all returned to their bus.

"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 escalated.

While Knysna locals looked on in confusion, French fans back home watched the scenes unfold live on television.

Further adding further to the drama, Domenech then unfolded a sheet of paper and slowly mumbled a speech written collectively by the players explaining their reasons for striking.

"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, who was replaced by Laurent Blanc after the tournament, had often been derided throughout his time in charge.

Having led France to the World Cup final in 2006, he struggled when playmaker Zinedine Zidane retired and midfielder Patrick Vieira was out injured. France went out of both the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup without winning a game.

Fans were angered when the French federation voted to keep him on in a secret ballot after Euro 2008.

"I'm not the moron that's been described," Domenech said.

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?"

Raymond Domenech (Photo: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
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