Now we know what it took for French coach Raymond Domenech to—finally—pull the utterly useless attacker Nicolas Anelka off the pitch in the hopes someone else might create something remotely resembling an offensive presence: Anelka lavishly insulting the previously adoring Domenech in front of the entire squad.
Though the horrible, childish, atmosphere among French players (one that has been allowed to rot still under the watch of the deeply neurotic Domenech) has been known and reported on for weeks (including within this blog). But it took nearly 48 hours after France’s quasi-elimination Thursday in its 2-0 loss to Mexico for the French sports daily l’Equipe to provide details of just how explosive the situation became. According to the paper, as Domenech dished out remedial pointers to various players during half-time of the still scoreless match, he once again demonstrated his almost insane dedication to the vapid Anelka by making it clear he planned to stick with him during the second half by suggesting the striker could create more passing and scoring possibilities for himself by remaining with the zone of attack the team had decided to use on offense. Anelka’s reply was printed on the front page of l’Equipe—but repeated by virtually no other French media in its press round up Saturday, due to the ferocity of the language and explicitness of the sexual act Domenech was ordered to submit to. (Hint, it’s still illegal in some southern U.S. states). For good measure, Anelka also told the coach he was an unwashed son of a street-walker, and sneered “Yeah, that’s right” when Domenech found himself forced under attack to reply “Okay, then you’re out of the game”.
That wasn’t the end of it. Returning to the locker room after the French defeat, l’Equipe reports a laughing, airy Anelka made it clear neither the loss nor France’s almost certain exit from Cup play in the group round made any difference to him—an attitude reflected in other forms elsewhere. While coming off the pitch at half-time and asked by French reporters for his analysis of the match, defender William Gallas smirked and held a middle finger aloft—a move interpreted as simultaneously his opinion of France’s playing, his esteem for the press, and the entire French Cup campaign. L’Equipe also reports witnessing Yoann Gourcuff—who was benched for the Mexico match after Anelka and play-maker Franck Ribéry made it explicitly clear to the entire team they didn’t like Gourcuff, and wouldn’t play with him during matches—literally lowering his eyes and squeezing against a barrier while speaking to the press in the post-match mixed area when his two detractors passed by en route for the team bus.
This all comes, of course, after Domenech decided to bench Florent Malouda—one of the best players in a seriously lame French side—for having aired displeasure with the coach’s plans to use the offensive specialist in a defensive role during the Cup. It also follows Domenech’s move to sit Thierry Henry in order to—at least in part—limit the Barcelona star’s influence over the easily influenced French squad. The upshot is, the coach created a divided, clannish atmosphere in which the utter lack of a single guiding and unity voice allowed personal pettiness and surging resentment to take over. Now that’s come back to take aim directly at its maste–and, for the most part, is being leaked by infuriated players themselves who can’t stand it any more. By the end of France’s last match against South Africa, it may well be Domenech will hear so much insult directed at him both within and outside the locker room that he’ll actually be glad his destructive, catastrophic stint at the head of Team France is finally, mercilessly over.