French flair or French farce?

Tue, 30 Oct 2012 12:11
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France's national soccer and rugby coaches, Didier Deschamps and Philippe Saint-Andre, have painted a contrasting picture of their players.

France's national soccer and rugby coaches, Didier Deschamps and Philippe Saint-Andre, have painted a contrasting picture of their players - attributing changing attitudes to the money now awash in both sports.

The French football squad, in particular, has been hit by ill-discipline, notably during the European championships in June, which led to a number of players, including Manchester City's Samir Nasri, suspended for bad behaviour.

That - and recent outrage that five under-21 internationals broke a curfew to party in Paris in between two key qualifying matches - comes after the senior squad staged a high-profile strike during the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Deschamps, who captained France to the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 titles, said not all the players who got an international call-up realised what an honour it was.

"Some feel it more than others," the 41-year-old told AFP in a joint interview with Saint-Andre.

"But as the main interest of the players is in any case based on the economic aspects, the France national team brings them practically nothing in that sense.

"Of course it brings them some fame but they already have that because they are generally at big clubs. After that you either have it [pride] or you don't. You can't change either characters or personalities."

Saint-Andre, who captained the rugby side from 1990 to 1997, in contrast said that French players were still largely proud of representing their country, despite the greater financial rewards available in the modern game.

"The Top 14 [the French club championship] is important but if the guy wants to raise his profile, it is only by playing for France he will achieve that," said the 45-year-old.

"The only time that you can compete with football in terms of TV is the Six Nations or the World Cup Final, where 18 million viewers are getting up early on a Sunday morning to watch the French national side.

"That [the Final] is head and shoulders above everything else in the sport.

"But regardless of the importance of the match I always have the same message for the guys. I tell them: 'You must arrive with an enormous grin on your face because you are extremely privileged'."

Former Marseille and Monaco manager Deschamps, who replaced Laurent Blanc after Euro 2012, has sought to impose a new code of ethical conduct for players, which he says will stay in place "come what may".

He attributed different attitudes towards meal times and a reliance on mobile phones to changing times socially, dubbing the current crop of players the "why generation".

The former Chelsea star said he was staggered at France Under-21 players Yann Mvila and Chris Mavinga, who with three other teammates sneaked out to party in Paris the day after a crunch Euro 2013 play-off with Norway and three days before the return leg.

He said he found it "unbelievable" for the five to drive four hours from the team base in the northern city of Le Havre to the capital and back but the players did not realise the risks involved.

"It is the why generation: 'Why? Why?' 'Why is training at 15.00 and not at 14.30? And why?' But why is it always why? Just get on and do it!" he added.