Handball part of the game - Domenech
Given his side reached the final in 2006 and his players boycotted training at the following World Cup, Raymond Domenech’s book about his time as manager of the French football team was always likely to get tongues wagging.
Tout Seul (All Alone) was released in France yesterday, and Domenech says one of his motivations for writing it was to explain how, on his return from the World Cup in South Africa, his three-year-old son came to ask whether his father would be going to prison.
France’s group stage exit caused such a furore at the time that it was inevitable that Domenech would one day settle some scores. Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribery, Samir Nasri and Thierry Henry feel the brunt of his frustration but few are spared.
Domenech also addresses the infamous World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland three years ago, when France progressed in Paris thanks to an extra-time goal from William Gallas and a helping hand from Henry.
“I’m not going to talk about that evening, the immense fear, the Irish team that led 1-0 in front of 20,000 supporters dressed in green and singing with all their soul, the exceptional performance of Hugo Lloris, the equalising and qualifying goal by William Gallas, after a handball by Thierry Henry,” he writes.
“However, I immediately had the feeling that we should practically apologise for having qualified.”
Domenech insists his team had no reason to do so, citing a bizarre penalty that Ireland were awarded in a group win over Georgia. France’s controversial winner, he said, was just a part of the game.
“Everyone forgot that we weren’t going to be eliminated at that moment, that the history of football is filled with refereeing errors, that the Irish reached the play-offs thanks to a simulation in the box and an imaginary penalty.”
Ireland also feature in another incident that had a negative impact on the day of a crucial World Cup qualifier at Lansdowne Road in 2005.
The then French President Jacques Chirac, who was hospitalised at the time, rang Domenech and Zidane to ask a favour. While singing the national anthem, could the players place their hands over their hearts?
“That evening played out like a dream,” Domenech recalls. “La Marseillaise sung with hand on hearts, the noble attitude of our players, then our beautiful victory (1-0) with a goal from Thierry Henry. This happiness lasted until the radio programme that . . . revealed the hoax: an impressionist had tricked us, Zidane and me. Jacques Chirac had never called.”
Much of the book focuses on the scarcely believable paranoia within the French squad and their implosion during the last World Cup, when Anelka insulted his manager at half-time during the defeat to Mexico and was subsequently sent home. Domenech says he was less shocked by the insult than by Anelka’s decision to address him in the informal “tu” form while doing it.
He also explains why he refused to shake hands with South African coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. “Everyone forgot his declarations after our play-off matches against Ireland,” he writes. “He maintained that Henry was a cheat and that we should be ashamed to have qualified in such a manner. His comments appalled me.”