Gavin Cooney

RAYMOND DOMENECH HAS dismissed the necessity for a translator however begins our dialog by saying he’ll solely have the ability to perceive me if I communicate English with a French accent. 

I snigger the awkward, just-checking-you’re-joking-on-that-one? snigger of the interviewer able to escalate to panic. 

He repeats his request, leaving it dangling simply lengthy sufficient to flatten my snigger to a stumped, ‘proper…’ earlier than clarifying that he’s, certainly, joking. 

Domenech is a much more beneficiant and genial interviewee than his media caricature would recommend, however when he was France supervisor, these qualities have been usually undercut by his behavior of cracking jokes on the improper time.

It wasn’t true, for example, that Domenech omitted Robert Pires and Mikel Silvestre due to their star indicators: references to astrology have been maybe unwise one-liners used to defuse tense press conferences with a jilted sporting press not getting the tidbits they bought from Domenech when he was supervisor of the U21s. In actuality, Pires was neglected of squads as Domenech felt he was a disruptive affect. 

And when France went out with a whimper from Euro 2008, Domenech responded to a query about resignation by as a substitute proposing on-air to his girlfriend, a tv presenter. He apologised the next day, saying he felt “a second of humanity once I ought to have stayed chilly {and professional}.” 

Domenech’s reign as France supervisor was extraordinary. It included a run to the ultimate of the 2006 World Cup and was ended by the nationwide disgrace that turned of the 2010 World Cup, that includes two of the most important controversies within the sport’s trendy historical past in between. 

Andrew Paton / INPHO
Raymond Domenech at a press convention in Dublin forward of the assembly of Eire and France in 2005.

Andrew Paton / INPHO / INPHO

And on an alternate timeline none of it will have occurred and Raymond Domenech would have been Eire supervisor as a substitute. 

“Sure!”, he exclaims. “I had a gathering with the individuals who have been trying, I believe I made the [shortlist] of three coaches, and so they took the coach of the U21s, I can’t bear in mind his title.” 

The title he’s trying to find is Brian Kerr. Domenech says he was interviewed for the function earlier than Kerr was given the job, although made no guarantees about bringing again Roy Keane after Saipan. He says he didn’t discuss any people, together with the person he was striving to succeed: Mick McCarthy, whom Domenech had coached at Lyon greater than a decade earlier. 

“We spoke about soccer and Eire”, says Domenech. “About what kind of soccer I wish to play, like each time you need a job: you communicate what of the gamers, the staff, and the spirit of the nation. There aren’t any particulars. It was a sensible choice for Eire to decide on an Irish coach. I’d have appreciated to educate Eire, I just like the spirit of this staff and the followers.” 

Domenech sampled that spirit a few years later. He ascended to the highest job in France after Euro 2004 and performed Eire in qualifying, profitable 1-0 in Dublin because of Thierry Henry’s gorgeous aim. 

That sport was presaged by an ominous signal for the remainder of Domenech’s reign. Earlier than the sport, he acquired a name from who he informed was President Jacques Chirac, who was then recuperating in hospital from sickness. The voice on the cellphone requested Domenech to have his gamers put their palms on their hearts whereas singing Les Marseillaise earlier than kick-off as a present of help for his or her president. The gamers adopted Domenech’s directions when he handed on the message.

Solely after the sport did the supervisor uncover that the voice on the opposite finish of the cellphone was not Chirac, however a prank-playing comic. It was an embarrassing second, however worse would come. By the tip, the squad battle to take care of even an phantasm of staff spirit and communality. 

France squeezed into the 2006 World Cup robotically – partly because of Shay Given’s terrific late save from Alexander Frei’s effort in Switzerland’s final-day draw towards Eire – after which, impressed by Zinedine Zidane, ran to the ultimate in Berlin. By the point they misplaced a penalty shootout to Italy, Zidane was sitting within the dressing room, despatched off for headbutting Marco Materazzi, the picture of his lonely stroll previous the trophy frozen for posterity. 

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Zidane walks by the trophy after his purple card within the 2006 World Cup ultimate.

Alamy Inventory Photograph

Domenech didn’t see the incident on the time. In actual fact, hardly anyone did. 

“It’s the primary time on the earth we used the VAR”, says Domenech. “Simply by the fourth official there was a TV monitor for the individuals who have been working for the TV, and the fourth official noticed what occurred on the TV. He mentioned it to the referee, he informed the referee that Zidane had headbutted Materazzi. No one noticed it apart from Buffon, Materazzi and Zidane. They have been the three individuals who noticed what occurred. Afterwards, it was the TV. It should be a purple card, however no person noticed him.” 

What did Domenech say to Zidane afterwards? 

“Nothing. What are you able to say? You lose a ultimate, all of the gamers within the dressing room have been disenchanted, greater than disenchanted. You possibly can’t say something on this second.” 

And what did Zidane say?

“Nothing. He mentioned nothing. Two days later he tried to apologise; ‘Je m’excuse’ he mentioned on TV, ’however I don’t remorse something.’ 

With the advantage of time, Domenech says folks now speak to him in regards to the run to the ultimate – which included Zidane’s astonishing efficiency towards Brazil within the quarter-finals – however there’s a trace of remorse in his voice when he ruminates on soccer’s adamance on a single winner. 

“In soccer, while you attain the ultimate and don’t win you’re a loser”, he sighs. “It’s completely different in different sports activities. In different sports activities when you find yourself within the ultimate you get gold, silver, and bronze, you might be second and third, and it’s a great factor. In soccer when you find yourself second, you might be nothing.”

The 2006 World Cup would quickly tackle the hue of superb nostalgia when judged towards what adopted for Domenech. Euro 2008 was wretched, with France ending backside of their group, drawing with Romania earlier than being overwhelmed by the Netherlands and Italy. 

He held on to his job after the Euros, however that maintain was slipping. The criticism was intense and sometimes vitriolic. Michel Platini mentioned France wouldn’t win the 2010 World Cup as they’d a “Raymond downside”, and Eric Cantona described Domenech as “the worst coach in French soccer since Louis XVI.”

Domenech additionally needed to cope with revolt, notably after the final of the leaders from 1998 left the constructing when Lilian Thuram retired after Euro 2008. Thierry Henry reportedly stopped a coaching session earlier than a qualifier towards Romania in 2009 to criticise the coach’s coaching strategies. 

Henry’s subsequent mutiny was, in fact, towards the legal guidelines of the sport. Within the second leg of the World Cup play-off towards Eire in 2009, Domenech once more discovered himself adjoining to a different notorious second and once more didn’t see it in actual time, solely discovering Henry’s handball within the build-up to William Gallas’ equaliser when he went to meet his press duties. 

Paul Railton / INPHO

Paul Railton / INPHO / INPHO

“I went to see the journalists, and so they have been all unhappy”, remembers Domenech. “I requested what had occurred, ‘You’re unhappy, however we’ve got certified?’. They mentioned, ‘Have you ever not seen what occurred with Thierry Henry?’” 

“I can perceive the Irish have been indignant, because it was a giant mistake by the referee. Nevertheless it was nonetheless 1-0, no person was certified and no person was eradicated.” 

The place the French public largely stood by Zidane for his sending off in Berlin, Henry was vilified by the French press, to the purpose that he referred to as for the sport to be replayed. 

“For Henry, even in France it was troublesome”, says Domenech. “He wished us to play the sport once more but it surely was too late.  Due to all of the video games, I’m not positive once we might have performed it. However I’d have most well-liked to have accomplished it once more. We have been so unhealthy on this sport that it will have been unimaginable to have accomplished that twice. I don’t know the way we certified, Eire have been higher than us within the sport. Our greatest participant was our goalkeeper.” 

The FAI needed to accept the ethical excessive floor and €5 million in compensation from Fifa as France went to the World Cup. Theirs was a doubtful honour. 

“Once we see what occurred in South Africa, it will have been higher had Eire certified”, deadpans Domenech. 

What little authority Domenech had earlier than the World Cup had been shattered by the point the event began. “I used to be not the coach once I arrived there”, he sys. “Laurent Blanc signed to succeed me on the twenty fourth of Might, earlier than we went to South Africa.” 

The squad was turning into unimaginable to handle. Domenech later wrote in his autobiography that Florent Malouda spent a coaching session earlier than the opening sport towards Uruguay flying into tackles on Abou Diaby and Mathieu Valbuena, who rivalled him for a spot within the beginning staff. Domenech’s guide data his diary entry that night time: I’m sick of it. My team-talk for tomorrow is prepared. ‘Go fuck yourselves!’, is what I ought to say. 

He didn’t say that and as a substitute the flak flew in the other way. Domenech fought a dropping battle with Nicolas Anelka on the World Cup: the coach wished him to run in behind defences, the place Anelka most well-liked to drop off deeper, as he had accomplished successfully when taking part in with Didier Drogba at Chelsea that season. (Domenech identified, not unreasonably, that France didn’t have Drogba to play alongside him.) 

Tensions erupted at half-time in the course of the second sport towards Mexico, with Anelka reportedly telling Domenech to, “Go fuck your self, you soiled son of a whore.” L’Equipe reported on the exact insults the next day, and the French Federation made the choice to ship Anelka dwelling. Domenech as we speak says these weren’t Anelka’s phrases, and says he didn’t agree together with his banishing. 

However worse was to return, in what the French as we speak nonetheless check with as Knysna, simply as we check with Saipan. 

Domenech puffs out his cheeks. “It was obscure. I used to be on the dinner simply earlier than the coaching, and I believed they have been making an attempt to do one thing. Joking, I mentioned to one among my coaches, ‘I hope they don’t need to make a strike for coaching.’ For me, that was unimaginable.” 

Nevertheless it wasn’t unimaginable. 

“Sure”, sighs Domenech. “They did it.”

It was a risible episode. The French gamers met kids from the small city of Knysna however reasonably than then go to coaching afterwards, they boarded their staff bus and went on strike in misguided help of Anelka. It fell to Domenech to learn out a gamers’ assertion. 

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Domenech by the staff bus after his gamers went on strike.

Alamy Inventory Photograph

The gamers have been castigated within the French press however so too was Domenech. He opens his 2012 autobiography with the scene of his return dwelling from South Africa, together with his three-year-old son operating dwelling to ask, “Daddy, are you going to jail?”

Domenech referred to as that guide Tout Seul – All Alone. 

“In that second, I had no president and no person capable of drive the staff or the scenario, I needed to do it myself”, he says. “A coach is perpetually alone. Once you select a participant, while you make the road up: you might be alone. You communicate with the others however it’s you who decides it, it’s you who’s accountable. On this second you might be actually alone. You’re all the time alone.”  

Domenech stepped away from teaching after the 2010 World Cup, taking a job as the top of the affiliation of French coaches, together with performing some media work. However he might by no means shirk the shadow of Knysna. In 2017 Domenech tweeted about Nantes’ 4-1 defeat to PSG, criticising then-Nantes supervisor Claudio Ranieri’s ways of “parking the bus.” The official Nantes account shot again, “unsure you’re in the perfect place to speak about buses.” 

Three years later, that very same account introduced that the membership’s new supervisor was one Raymond Domenech. It was Domenech’s first supervisor’s job in 10 years, but it surely lasted simply eight video games. 

Laurent Blanc stepped down as French supervisor after Euro 2012, at which level Didier Deschamps took cost. His major-tournament file has been excellent, main France to the 2018 World Cup together with the finals of Euro 2016 and final 12 months’s World Cup in Qatar. Regardless of seemingly everlasting hypothesis that Zidane could be appointed to the job, Deschamps stays in situ, and can lead France towards Eire in qualifying for Euro 2024. 

“When he has had difficulties with the staff, he knew change, to handle, to reverse the consequence, to vary the staff, to do one thing to interrupt the routine”, says Domenech in reward of Deschamps. “He has no dedication to staying with a staff, a participant, a formation, a method, he is ready to change. He has had issues with Benzema, with Pogba; he has had issues however every time he has succeeded in fixing the scenario.” 

Domenech did get in contact with one piece of recommendation forward of the 2018 World Cup ultimate: don’t do because the French aspect did earlier than the 2006 ultimate and alter resorts earlier than the ultimate. “We mentioned goodbye to everybody on the resort as if it was all completed”, says Domenech. “It was a mistake for the focus: the gamers should know that they may come again. That we’ve got to go, we’ve got to win, after which we’ve got to return again after.”

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Deschamps after profitable the World Cup in 2018.

Alamy Inventory Photograph

Domenech dismisses these calling for Deschamps to be moved on. “Particularly in France, you have got somebody who’s doing properly and also you need to change as a result of it has gone on for a while. We wish new issues, however he’s profitable!” 

And can Deschamps proceed on profitable when he brings France to Dublin for a Euro 2024 qualifier tomorrow week?

“Everytime in Dublin, we win 1-0″, smiles Domenech. “The primary sport: Henry, 1-0. The second sport: Anelka, 1-0. And this time…Mbappe, 1-0.” 

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