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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Paul Myers

French football supremo Le Graët quits post three days after disparaging Zidane

Noël Le Graët, president of the French Football Federation, announced his retirement after a crisis meeting with the sport's top executives. AFP

Noël Le Graët, French football's most powerful administrator for more than a decade, was on Wednesday humiliatingly sidelined from his post as president of the Fédération française de football (FFF).

Le Graët's retirement was announced nearly 18 months before the end of his fourth term as supremo of the outfit that runs football throughout the country.

The 81-year-old had been fighting a rearguard action to keep his job since Sunday following disparaging comments made during a radio interview on the French broadcaster RMC about the former France international Zinedine Zidane.

Asked whether the 50-year-old former Real Madrid boss had contacted the FFF about possibly replacing Didier Deschamps as head coach of the France national team, Le Graët responded: "I wouldn't even have taken his call on the phone.

"To tell him what? 'Hello sir, don't worry, look for another club, I just agreed a contract with Didier."

The scornful attitude brought a wave of condemnation from across the political spectrum on Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé took to social media to voice his indignation over the lack of respect for a player who had helped France to their first World Cup crown in 1998 and a coach who had guided Madrid to three Champions League titles on the trot as well as two La Liga crowns.

Even though Le Graët apologised for his remarks on Monday, his clumsiness unleashed a wave of discontent.

As "likes" for Mbappé's tweet passed the one million mark, an interview with the football agent Sonia Souid appeared in the French sports newspaper L'Equipe on Tuesday alleging that Le Graët had attempted to abuse his power during their initial dealings.

"Noël Le Graët, in agreement with the FFF executive committee, has decided to step down as president of the federation," said a communique issued after a stormy two-hour meeting in Paris on Wednesday morning.

A government audit of the management practices at the FFF - expected at the end of January - could further discredit Le Graët and thwart any lingering thoughts of a return from the wildnerness.

It could also end the career of the FFF's director general Florence Hardouin who has been at loggerheads with Le Graët.

The 55-year-old former international fencer was suspended from her job following the executive committee meeting.

Her role as well as Le Graët's will be taken on by Philippe Diallo, an FFF vice-president.

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