Noël Le Graët, the president of France’s FFF football federation, has been suspended from his duties amid a row over derogatory comments he made about the 1998 World Cup hero Zinedine Zidane, BFM television said on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.
The news followed an urgent meeting of the French Football Federation’s executive committee, which appointed Vice-Chairman Philippe Diallo to act as interim chief.
The decision to suspend Le Graët comes a day after he was forced to apologise to France great Zinedine Zidane for remarks about the former Real Madrid coach which drew the ire of players and politicians .
Le Graët’s position was further weakened this week by allegations of sexual harassment voiced by a female football agent – allegations he denies.
Zidane was one of the favourites to take over as manager of France if Didier Deschamps left the job but the latter’s contract was extended after he led the national team to the World Cup final, which they lost to Argentina last month.
When asked if Zidane, a World Cup winner with France in 1998 and a national icon, would now manage Brazil’s national team instead, Le Graët told RMC: “I don’t give a damn, he can go wherever he wants.”
On Tuesday, the head of the FFF’s national ethics committee Patrick Anton had called for Le Graët to step down, saying his comments showed he had “lost some of his lucidity”.
“We need a strong and serene governance, which unfortunately is no longer the case. All season long we have to apply the rules of ethics to leaders – especially district and league presidents – and refer cases to disciplinary committees because they have crossed the line,” Anton added.
“As far as the president of the federation is concerned, while we obviously do not intend to refer the matter to a disciplinary committee, we can only ask him to step down in the best interests of football.”
Earlier, France forward Kylian Mbappé also voiced his disapproval of Le Graët’s comments, saying on Twitter: “Zidane is France, we don’t disrespect the legend like that.”
France’s Minister for Sports Amelie Oudea-Castera was one of many politicians who reacted to Le Graët’s remarks, saying the president of the country’s “biggest sporting federation” had crossed a line.