France’s Soccer Boss Out Over Sexual Harassment Claims Ahead of Women’s World Cup
Posted on: March 1, 2023, 04:06h.
Last updated on: March 2, 2023, 02:16h.
Noël Le Graët, the now-former president of the French Football Federation (FFF), resigned Tuesday in response to sexual harassment claims. But Le Graët isn’t leaving the world he’s known for over two decades. He’s still headed to become a delegate for FIFA.
Le Graët was removed from his position on January 11, days after making an unflattering statement about former French player and manager Zinedine Zidane. After this incident, he found himself involved in a case of sexual abuse, which caused him to lose all support from the French National Team.
After an urgent review by the Ministry of Sports over accusations of sexual misconduct, Le Graët announced his resignation. The 81-year-old refutes the allegations and will also file a defamation complaint against Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, whom they accuse of “manipulating information,” according to French media outlet Le Monde.
There is reportedly other evidence to support the claims against Le Graët. Sonia Souid, who represents several French female players, accused him of inappropriate behavior, which has led to an investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Paris. The Ministry of Sports, in its own investigation, received an affidavit from FFF executive Florence Hardouin that she suffered sexual harassment as well by her former boss.
Le Graët’s tenure at the head of the FFF includes a 2018 World Cup win and a Nations League victory in 2021. Philippe Diallo, president since Le Graët’s departure, will take over until the next elections are held.
FIFA in Bounds
Despite the controversy, Le Graët will become FIFA’s delegate at its Paris office. FIFA President Gianni Infantino appointed him in January 2022. So far, there has been no word regarding whether the organization might rescind the offer.
The delegate’s responsibilities include leading FIFA member associations and providing the strategic basis for soccer development activities through the FIFA Forward Programme. But that may be a more challenging assignment this year, as French soccer is in turmoil, not only because of Le Graët. Women’s team head coach Corinne Diacre and others in the FFF organization are also causing trouble.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is coming later this year, and several French players are already backing out. Wendie Renard, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, and Kadidiatou Diani have already announced they won’t play, and others are expected to follow suit.
This will seriously alter sportsbooks’ odds, with France currently at +750 to win on DraftKings. That’s good enough for fifth place but far from the +275 Team USA is getting. Losing players like Renard, who has 14 French Division 1 titles, will change the lines and push France further down the list.
Le Graët recently ignited other controversies, leading the FFF during one of its best runs. In January, he lit up soccer fans with an attack on Zidane during an interview with the French radio station RMC.
After France lost to Argentina in the World Cup final, Zidane’s name surfaced as a potential successor to manager Didier Deschamps. When RMC asked Le Graët if he had spoken to Zidane, he slammed the star and said he wouldn’t bother answering the phone. In doing so, Le Graët publicly shamed someone who had become a popular figure in French soccer.
Before that, the FFF boss was already receiving unwanted attention over accusations about his conduct at the organization, including his attitude toward women. This began after the French soccer magazine, So Foot published excerpts of sexual messages he allegedly sent to female FFF members last September.
The article also cited FFF insiders’ concerns over his “disastrous” management of the organization. Like with the Ministry of Sports, Le Graët has refuted the information and is now suing the magazine for defamation.
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