This week I had options. Do I write about Raymond Domenech or Jack Warner?
I opted for Domenech because as Vice-President of FIFA, a piece on Warner (who ridiculously opposes England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup. He only added to the fury of England when he suggested that “no one in Europe likes England”) would have taken me into the wee-hours to write.
So Domenech it is. Lucky you.
When it comes to sibling rivalries in world soccer, France versus Italy is the new pink. Not that this is anything new to the two Latin cousins. Throughout history, these cultural titans have always grabbed attention.
The sport of soccer could not have asked for anything more given that the two sides presently represent two of the stronger soccer nations on the planet.
Too bad France’s coach Raymond “Bunny Hop” Domenech is besmirching all this.
His recent (and tiresomely persistent) anti-Italy outburst on the heel of an important EURO 2008 qualifier has finally earned him deserved scorn.
Perhaps it is time Ray takes a bike ride through the glorious streets of Paris to calm down. After that, he should splash some Shiraz on his sullen face and give a good, long hard look in the mirror. That way he’ll see that there are no demons slaying the souls of his chivalrous French players.
So what did the good man have to say? He accused, rather churlishly, Italy of fixing a U-21 Olympic qualifying match between the two countries. The match in question took place way back in 2000! He says, “If it happens once you have doubts, but there are hidden agreements in Italian football.”
Ah yes, those stylishly cunning Renaissance rejects. Always up to no good against la France. Is Domenech – who is a dramatist – auditioning for the commedia dell’arte or something?
The scary thing is that I think he actually believes what he says. Like that chick in Sunset Boulevard who still believed she was a star.
In response to Domenech’s words of enlightenment, rugged Italian national player Gennaro Gattuso had to share his Calabrese thoughts. “That was a great match, which was fought by both sides and could have been won by France as well. If he wants, we can watch it again, together, to see if the referee was corrupt or not. I don’t see why he had to say these things.”
Italian team manager Gigi Riva was equally infuriated. “This is pathetic. He knows that Italy-France is an important tie and is trying to cause controversy. Why didn’t he say these things back then, after the match? He is the one who is trying to influence the referee, it is a very sad thing to see.”
In the 1980s, there was a show here in Canada called Seeing Things. The plot revolved around the main character’s distinguished and reoccurring premonitions. If it is ever decided to bring back the show, I nominate Raymond to be the main protagonist. As an amateur astrologist, he indeed sees many things.
In any event, his unsubstantiated comments crossed the line from coach trying to gain a psychological edge to an individual attacking the integrity of a national program.
Surely, as I read his comments, someone would have to step forward and reprimand him?
That person came in the form of UEFA President Michel Platini. The former Juventus soccer legend chimed in with his own firm remarks quoted in the outstanding French sports paper L’ Equipe. “If Domenech does not submit evidence supporting what he has said he will be punished. We will send a letter to the French Federation asking for proof of what was claimed. If they fail to submit it we will take action and punish the coach.”
As Smokey Robinson once said, “I second that emotion.”
By now, French officials should have been hit with a two-day old baguette that Domenech – who continues to baffle and frustrate French fans with his perplexing selections – is belittling and demeaning the great achievements and legacy of French soccer.
That they elegantly did – the French soccer Federation has issued an apology as they let Domenech fend for himself. “Domenech’s words were representative only of his personal opinion,” FFF chief Jean-Pierre Escalettes explained.
Sigh. Between Italy and France they taught the world how to eat and act with sophistication. Several hundred types of cheeses and wines (and thousands of variations of foods) are produced within their shockingly delicious culinary societies.
Raymond Domenech carries this legacy perfectly well – cheesy and whiny indeed.
Now if you don’t mind Ray, we soccer fans want to anticipate this classic encounter in peace.