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French FA president "steps back" from role

French FA president "steps back" from role following recent Zinedine Zidane controversy

January 11, 2023 By Ali M.
Noel Le Graet is officially "taking a step back" from his role as the French Football Federation president after his disrespectful remarks towards Zidane, which is just his latest controversy.

Noel Le Graet, the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), is officially "taking a step back" from his role following his recent statement on national icon Zinedine Zidane.

The 81-year-old recently landed himself in hot water over his choice of words regarding the aforementioned Les Bleus legend, which was deemed disrespectful.

Zidane, who had been tipped to succeed Didier Deschamps as the national team boss after the 2022 FIFA World Cup, missed out on the prestigious role after the FFF opted the hand the current boss a new deal until 2026.

And when asked about this issue in an interview with RMC, Le Graet surprisingly decided to take shots at the former Real Madrid sensation, stating publicly that he never even considered Zizou for the job nor would he have even picked up a phone call from the three-time UEFA Champions League-winning manager.

"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."

These comments sparked backlash, with star attacker Kylian Mbappe hitting back on Twitter, demanding respect for the 1998 World Cup winner, while Real Madrid issued a public statement in response to the ill-advised remark.

The 81-year-old later apologized but has since been forced to vacate his role. However, it should be noted that the Zidane controversy isn't the driving force behind this move, but rather the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Zidane is France, we don't disrespect the legend like that," Mbappe wrote in Zizou's defense 

The FFF is currently in the midst of an investigation regarding sexual harassment, with Le Graet facing allegations of his own regarding his private conduct which he has denied. As a result, both he and general manager Florence Hardouin have been taken out of their roles pending the investigation, with Philippe Diallo assuming both responsibilities on an interim basis.

"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 official statement read, as per Sky Sports.

"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."

Patrick Anton, the president of the FFF's National Ethics Council, recently called for Noel to step down following the Zidane controversy, arguing that in a time when calmness and serenity are needed, a change in leadership had to be taken.

"We urge the president of the French Football Federation to step down from his duties and resign from his job. We need to be strong but also calm, and unfortunately, we will not have that under his wing. We have to let our leaders know the rules that bind us together, and this time, our files show that he has gone over the line with this issue," Anton stated.

"We are not going to waste the good economic results by the FFF in recent years because of these statements that belong in the tabloids and not on the football section of a newspaper. President Le Graët's comments show he has lost clarity, and we need serenity to carry on. When he starts to talk, we do not know where he is going to end. He is a tired man, and ruling a Federation that has two million licenses means that you can't go around and lose your cool and serenity like he does," Anton added.

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