Eydelie opens a new can of Marseilles worms

 

Euroscene: "Before the final, we were asked to stand in line and receive an injection. Rudi Voeller was the only one to kick up a fuss."

"He went on yelling at everyone in the changing room. I had a dry mouth during the game. My body didn't react like it would normally. Actually, the stuff inhibited me more than anything else. It was the first and last time I agreed to take something".

The above comments were made by former Olympique Marseilles (OM) player, Jean-Jacques Eydelie, in an interview with L'Equipe magazine last weekend. The final to which Eydelie refers is the 1993 Champions League final in Munich in which Marseilles beat AC Milan 1-0 thanks to a 43rd minute goal from French international Basile Boli.

Eydelie's interview comes prior to the publication of his autobiography, due for release in March, a book that is destined to cast a grim light on French football. For a start, he says that all the clubs he played for (with the single exception of Bastia) engaged in doping practises. For a second, he claims that "cheating had become second nature" for that Marseilles team and that "nearly all the players were involved in match-fixing".

It has to be pointed out that Edylie is not new to controversy. In 1993, he played a key role in the infamous Valenciennes-OM affair when he secretly gave money to the wife of a Valenciennes player, Christophe Robert, on the eve of a key league clash between Valenciennes and OM, just six days before that Munich final against Milan. In the end, Marseilles beat Valenciennes 1-0 to clinch a fifth consecutive French title.

However, the bribery was subsequently revealed by Valenciennes player Jacques Glassman, prompting the French Federation to strip Marseilles of their title and demote them to the second division. Furthermore, Uefa banned Marseilles from representing Europe in that year's Intercontinental Final, replacing them with the beaten finalists, Milan. In the wake of the Eydelie interview last weekend, Uefa have announced that they will be looking into the matter.

Inevitably, Eydelie's comments have prompted angry reactions from those directly involved. For example, Bernard Tapie, at the time chairman of OM, has said that he will sue both Eydelie and L'Equipe arguing that the unemployed Eydelie was trying to use "blackmail" in order to raise money and adding that dope tests carried out after the game all returned negative. The controversial Tapie, a former minister under French President Francois Mitterand, was sentenced to eight months imprisonment for his part in the Valenciennes affair.

That Marseilles team, coached by Belgian Raymond Goethals, was packed with talented players including midfielder Didier Deschamps, defender Marcel Desailly, goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, Croat Alain Boksic, Ghanian Abedi Pele and German Rudi Voeller. Several of the players have contradicted Eydelie's story with Voeller calling it "unbelievable" and adding: "I can't remember any team-mate receiving an injection of any kind." Marcel Desailly also denied the accusations, claiming that OM's win was entirely clean and arguing that Eydelie is launched on a PR mission to sell copies of his forthcomng book. The current OM coach, Jean Fernandez, who worked alongside Goethals at Marseilles in the early '90s, pointed out that, with that particular ultra-strong squad, there was no need for either match fixing or dope to win titles.

Not everyone, however, has been convinced. Arsenal manager, Frenchman Arsène Wenger, coach to Monaco in the early '90s, yesterday told L'Equipe that Eydelie's interview confirmed his worst suspicions, saying: "These were things that people knew, lots of people knew about them, we're talking about the worst period there has ever been for French football. It was completely corrupted from within by Tapie's methods. The things that Eydelie says are in line with what a lot of people think."

Mind you, this is not the first time that the OM team of the '90s have been accused of doping. Writing in the Times in December 2003 in the wake of the 'Rio Ferdinand Affair', Irish international Tony Cascarino described his experience in Marseilles: " . . . I was repeatedly injected with a substance during my time at Marseilles . . . To this day, I don't have a clue what it was. Whatever the substance was, my performances improved. That didn't make it acceptable. I cling to the sliver of hope that it was legal, though in reality, I'm 99 per cent sure it wasn't." This is another one that could run and run.