The defeat of France in the World Cup final has been followed by a series of events. Whose epilogue is the investigation into Noel Le Graet, the president suspended from office, for alleged moral and sexual harassment of various women.
When the Argentine Gonzalo Montiel scored in the penalty shootout in the World Cup final. France entered a succession of events that make up a crisis, that is intuited for a long time. Didier Deschamps drew criticism for his team’s poor game proposal. Other protests were added to this over his decision not to have a Karim Benzema recently proclaimed Ballon d’Or. He started the tournament injured but was ruled out despite recovering during the World Cup. He played a friendly match with Real Madrid. Not being dropped from the squad.
The coach, however, was ratified by the president of the France Football Federation, Noel Le Graet. Who renewed Deschamps until 2026 without initially enjoying the approval of the Executive Committee of the federation, which later and in light of the new criticism, the Federation denied stating that the bet was made “unanimously”.
In the days after the defeat in the final at the hands of Argentina, Zinedine Zidane began to sound strongly as a possible replacement for Deschamps, but once the latter was confirmed in office and when he gave Le Graet his first interview, he was questioned. by the RCM station on whether he considered the possibility of offering the position to Zidane, to which the president replied: “I would not have answered the phone.” “I don’t give a damn. Let him go where he wants, he can go where he wants, to a club…”, he commented.
The outcry for the attack on Zidane
Le Graet’s words sounded disrespectful to various personalities. The great star of the France team, Kylian Mbappé, came out of the statements. “Zidane is France, you can’t disrespect a legend like that,” Mbappé wrote on Twitter. France Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra apologized to Le Graet for his “unacceptable” and “unfortunate words”.
Bixente Lizarazu, a former Athletic player and France international, is another of those who has expressed his opinion, being against the continuity of Deschamps, with whom he shared a dressing room in the France shirt. “The twelve years of Deschamps are a lot for a dressing room,” the Basque-France condemned in statements to the newspaper L’Equipe, where he also spoke about Le Graet’s disdainful attitude. “What is crazy is having come to this when we just played a World Cup final. But Noel Le Graet’s pitch against Zidane was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Lizarazu criticized.
Le Graet tried to rectify this before the accumulation of protests. “These clumsy comments have created a misunderstanding. I would like to personally apologize for these comments that do not reflect my thoughts at all, nor my consideration for the player he was and the coach he has become,” the president recoiled. Late words that had no effect on the course of events.
The accusation of moral and sexual harassment by the France Football Federation president
The dictatorial decision of the continuity of Deschamps and the snub towards Zidane motivated the Executive Committee of the Federation to put out the fire with the suspension of the functions of Le Graet, who had a contract until the end of 2024 and had been in office since 2011. The former socialist mayor of Guingamp and owner of the Le Graet Group, dedicated to the food industry, seemed to fade into the background at 81 years of age. But an even bigger fire was cooking in the offices. Deschamps and Zidane have been issued that perhaps have simply precipitated events that were to come.
Le Graet now has before it a major storm, an episode that seemed buried by time, but which has come to light in recent months but remained without much media focus. The player representative Sonia Souid denounced in an interview granted this January to L’Equipe and RMC that Le Graet sexually harassed her. She was the first face of her, with her name and surname, of what can be a wave of complaints.
Souid was a professional volleyball player. In 2010 she obtained the license from the France Federation to render services as an agent, being the only woman among the eighteen selected at that time to operate in France. Among his professional achievements are the achievement of the first paid transfer of a player in the France league and the fact that he managed to seat a woman on the bench of a professional men’s soccer team, promoted Corinne Deacon as coach of Clermont Foot 63 of the Gallic Second Division.
The former France president said
Souid’s desire to continue growing in football and her aspirations to promote the women’s sector led her to make contact with Le Graet in 2014. The president arranged a three-way meeting between him, Souid and Brigitte Henrique, head of women’s football in within the Federation.
When Souid went to the appointment, she found two glasses of champagne on the table and Le Graet informed her that the meeting would be alone, without Henrique’s presence. “We don’t need it. If we are both close enough, I will be able to make your ideas come true,” said the former president, according to Souid, who has since received messages and calls for meeting proposals. A routine that lasted until 2017. “He never looked at me as an agent, but as candy. To speak vulgarly, he looked at me as two breasts and an ass,” denounced Souid, who added unambiguously: “He told me face to face, in his department, very clear, that if I wanted him to help me, I had to sleep with him”.
The words of the alleged victim have transcended the pages of L’Equipe and the channel of the RMC station. The Paris Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into Le Graet for moral and sexual harassment. “In response to a report from the IGESR (General Inspectorate of Education, Sports and Investigation) on January 13, 2023. The investigation was opened into accusations of moral harassment and sexual harassment,” the Prosecutor’s Office told the Reuters agency.
The Paris Prosecutor’s Office investigates the France Football Federation president Le Graet
Meanwhile, Le Graet has defended himself in a statement sent by his lawyers to the AFP agency. Which he “denies all the accusations of moral and sexual harassment or any other criminal offense.” On the other hand, last September, the France Ministry of Sports ordered an audit of the France Federation. After the federation announced that it would file a defamation lawsuit against the magazine So Foot, which published that Le Graet had allegedly practiced harassment. to several employees.
This audit has led to an investigation by the Paris Prosecutor’s Office. Which apparently has collected various testimonies from employees who were allegedly harassed. While the process continues, Vice President Philippe Diallo will be in charge of acting president of the France Federation. Which seeks to extinguish its deep crisis while Justice tries to clarify the facts.
The France government, for its part, does not ignore the damage. This succession of events can do to a country that is preparing to host the 2024 Olympic Games. That found in the France Football Federation an important exponent as a publicity claim. “The Federation deserves a president of the highest quality. Who will give a good image of France football to the world,” stressed the government spokesman, Olivier Véran. Because football, as could be seen in the World Cup final with an unleashed. President Emmanuel Macron in the box is a matter of State in France.