French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet is “taking a step back” from his duties and vice-president Philippe Diallo has been named acting interim chairman.
Le Graet has left his role just days after making dismissive comments about Zinedine Zidane.
A statement from FFF read: “Noel Le Graet, in agreement with the executive committee of the FFF meeting today [January 11] 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.”
Zidane had been strongly linked as a potential successor to Didier Deschamps, but Le Graet told radio station RMC he would not take a call from one of France’s most decorated players and added: “I don’t give a damn, he can go wherever he wants.”
On Sunday, Le Graet had said Zidane had plenty of support but stood no chance of replacing Deschamps.
“Who can make serious reproaches to Deschamps?” he said. “Nobody. He [Zidane] does what he wants; it’s none of my business. I’ve never met him, we’ve never considered parting with Didier. He can go where he wants, to a club … If Zidane tried to contact me? Certainly not, I wouldn’t even pick up the phone.”
Deschamps, who led Les Bleus to World Cup glory in 2018 and runners-up in Qatar last month, was handed a new two-year extension, but Le Graet’s attitude towards Zidane went down poorly.
Kylian Mbappe tweeted his support of the “legend”, while the head of FFF’s ethics committee Patrick Anton called for the octogenarian to stand down.
Zidane c’est la France, on manque pas de respect à la légende comme ça… 🤦🏽♂️— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) January 8, 2023
Le Graet, who has also faced allegations about his private conduct, agreed to do so at a meeting with the federation’s executive committee, pending the findings of an ongoing investigation by the Ministry of Sports.
The committee also removed general manager Florence Hardouin, with deputy vice-president Diallo taking over both positions on an acting basis. Deschamps, meanwhile, had his contract ratified.
Le Graet, the former mayor of Guingamp and ex-president of the western town’s football club that under his guidance won the 2009 French Cup, took office in 2011.
France’s minister for sports, Amelie Oudea-Castera, was one of many politicians who reacted to Le Graet’s comments.
“Yet more out-of-touch comments and on top of that a shameful lack of respect, which hurts us all, towards a legend of football and sport,” she wrote on Twitter, also calling for an apology.
PSG manager Christopher Galtier was asked about the situation involving Le Graet and his comments on Tuesday.
“Zinedine Zidane deserves respect, and I am convinced that he has the respect of everyone,” the PSG boss said.
“He was an extraordinary player for the French team. He is a great coach with three league titles. Obviously the words that were said created a strong reaction.
“I’m not going to comment on the words, I simply say that Zinedine Zidane deserves great respect and he has the respect of everyone.
“I am not in the habit of shooting at an ambulance [the messenger], so I will not comment further.”
Le Graet apologised for his comments following the considerable public backlash.
“I would like to present my personal apologies for these remarks which absolutely do not reflect my thoughts, nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become,” Le Graet said in a statement reported by L’Equipe.
“I admit that I made awkward remarks which created a misunderstanding. Zidane knows the immense esteem I have for him, like all French people.”
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