Sarkozy asks minister to calm squad


French politicians from the president down plus a string of former soccer greats led a chorus of dismay on Sunday as France’s World Cup campaign threatened to implode after an extraordinary training boycott.
President Nicolas Sarkozy asked his sports minister in South Africa to prolong her stay to speak to the captain, coach and head of the French Football Federation (FFF) to calm the situation before today’s final Group A game against South Africa.
The game starts at 4pm.
The French team walked out from a public training session over the expulsion of striker Nicolas Anelka a day earlier for crudely insulting coach Raymond Domenech during their surprise 2-0 defeat by Mexico on Thursday.
Sunday’s walkout led to a furious row between captain Patrice Evra and a fitness coach and the resignation of a senior official , team director and FFF managing director Jean-Louis Valentin.
France are unlikely in any case to qualify for the second round of the tournament following the defeat by Mexico.
Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot said President Sarkozy had asked her to meet Evra, Domenech and the head of the French Football Federation, Jean-Pierre Escalettes.
“He (Sarkozy) like me, are taking note of the indignation of the French people and … calling for dignity and responsibility,” she told TFI television. Asked whether there would be penalties over the episode, she said: “It’s not yet the right time to take disciplinary action but that time will come very soon.”
Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, formerly a member of the national synchronised swimming team, slammed the boycott which players said was out of solidarity with Anelka.