World Cup

Fifa chief warns French president

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has warned France may be banned from international football if its government interferes in the running of the national side.

Blatter said he was sending a "clear and clean message" to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who criticised the team after a dismal World Cup campaign.

Sarkozy has pledged to personally lead an investigation into what went wrong.

But Blatter insisted the governing body would oppose "political interference, even if it is at presidential level."

Les Bleus finished bottom of their World Cup group and were plagued by problems on and off the pitch.

Forward Nicolas Anelka was sent home after refusing to apologise for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech, whose six-year reign ended with France's exit.

The rest of the squad then boycotted a training session in protest, and captain Fabrice Evra was involved in a row with fitness coach Robert Duverne.

Sarkozy has called for change within the French Football Federation (FFF), and during the tournament in South Africa he asked his sports minister Roselyne Bachelot to speak to the players, leaving them in no doubt about his view of their conduct.

Since the squad's return to France, Sarkozy has held talks with striker and former captain Thierry Henry, while Jean-Louis Valentin has resigned as FFF president.

The FFF has issued an apology to the French public and been savaged by the media, but Blatter is adamant that interference from governments in its affairs will not be tolerated.

"In France they have made an 'affair d'etat' with football, but football remains in the hands of the federation," said Blatter.

"We will help the national association and if it cannot be solved by consultation, then the only thing we have is to suspend the federation.

"Definitely, I can tell you that political interference will be dealt with by Fifa notwithstanding what kind of interference and what is the size of the country."

Fifa rules demand that national federations manage their affairs independently or face suspension from international football.

(Published by BBC Sport – June 29, 2010)

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