Football: Noël Le Graët, a president still on borrowed time

Three days after the opening by the Paris public prosecutor’s office of an investigation into moral and sexual harassment following a report made by the auditors of the General Inspectorate for Education, Sport and Research (Igesr) , the executive committee of the French Football Federation (Comex) met again on Thursday 19 January.

A weakened position

Officially a “information point on governance” was on the agenda for this meeting by videoconference. Currently in the West Indies, the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), Noël Le Graët, did not attend the session. Weakened by numerous controversies and little phrases as well as accusations of sexist behavior vis-à-vis former employees, the former socialist mayor of Guingamp had been forced to step back on January 11, after a a previous extraordinary meeting of the Comex, just after sweeping declarations concerning the icon of French football and sport Zinedine Zidane.

The judicial development of the beginning of the week, with the investigation entrusted to the brigade for the repression of delinquency against the person (BRDP) has darkened a little more the future of Noël Le Graët and his chances of regaining his prerogatives.

Strong pressure on Comex members

The boss of French football, for his part, denied the accusations, attacking, in a press release on Tuesday, January 17, organized leaks “through the press” and castigating a “administrative investigation, obviously in charge”for which he did not have “the opportunity to put forward his observations in defence”. He also denounced the “political interference and pressure” of the government.

Among the people targeted by Noël Le Graët, the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. “Noël Le Graët is a litigant like any other. He is free to organize his defense as he wishes, but his attempts at diversion will not fool anyone. I will not let myself be blamed”she replied.

Both internally and outside the FFF, calls for the resignation of the president are increasing. Such a decision “would be an extremely positive signal sent to all the victims”had thus launched the Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Isabelle Lonvis-Rome, Monday, January 16 on the Public Senate channel.

Last reprieve for the leader

If the former president of “En avant de Guingamp” does not resolve to hand over on his own, the room for maneuver of the Comex remains weak: the vast majority of its members come from the list that Noël Le Graët presented for his last re-election, in March 2021.

If it refuses to step aside, the great fear of elected officials is above all to see the federal assembly convened by a quarter of its members in order to dismiss the Comex as a whole. Conversely, a voluntary resignation would keep the body in place, allowing Vice-President Philippe Diallo, who has been acting since the retirement of Noël Le Graët, to remain in charge until the federal assembly scheduled for June. .

Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Olympique Lyonnais and influential member of Comex, judged in the columns of The TeamWednesday 18 January, that he was “worrying that not a day goes by without a new development taking place”. While judging, however, “premature to take a position” as long as “the report of the Ministry of Sports has not been released”.

This report must be sent to the FFF at the end of January. “The Comex will meet a few days later to focus entirely on the consequences of the audit, which takes us around mid-February”, explained to AFP Éric Borghini, member of the Comex and president of the federal commission of referees. The French football body will therefore have a fortnight to formulate written answers. A final reprieve for its 81-year-old leader.



Footballer Benjamin Mendy not guilty of six rapes, but will be retried for a seventh

After five months of trial, the French international footballer Benjamin Mendy was found not guilty of six rapes and a sexual assault on Friday January 13 by British justice. However, he will be retried on two charges, for which the jury did not reach a verdict.

Suspended for over a year

After fourteen days of deliberation, jurors in Chester (northern England) acquitted him of six rapes and one sexual assault on four women. But they failed to agree on a verdict on two other charges, one for rape of a 24-year-old woman in October 2020 and one for attempted rape of a 29-year-old woman in 2018.

Benjamin Mendy, world champion in 2018, will thus be retried for two to three weeks from June 26 for these charges, announced judge Steven Everett. A procedural hearing is scheduled for January 27. The defender, suspended for more than a year by his club Manchester City, had appeared since early August. Accused of seven rapes, an attempted rape and a sexual assault, he risked life imprisonment.

His co-accused Louis Saha Matturie (unrelated to former footballer Louis Saha), presented as his tout, was found not guilty of three rape charges, and the jury did not reach a verdict on three other charges of rape and three of sexual assault.

Deliberate several times interrupted

After four months of hearings, the jury, made up of eight men and four women, retired to deliberate on December 5, but talks were halted several times due to Covid-19 cases and then for a scheduled break. for a long time, before a truce during the holiday season.

In court, the prosecution presented Benjamin Mendy as a “predator” having abused victims “vulnerable, terrified and isolated”. The footballer denied having been “a danger for women”, claiming to have had only consensual sex. The Manchester club took note of Friday’s verdict, but felt it was not “unable to comment further” as long as this case is not closed.

Four months in pre-trial detention

Winner of the 2018 World Cup with the France team, where he was a substitute, Benjamin Mendy was imprisoned at the end of August 2021 and spent more than four months in pre-trial detention. Released in early January 2022, he was placed under judicial supervision pending trial.

Trained in Le Havre, revealed in Marseille and passed through Monaco, Benjamin Mendy became the most expensive defender in history in 2017, when the Citizens paid 52 million pounds (about 61.4 million euros at current price) to secure his services.



Football: Noël Le Graët, a president surrounded by business

“I don’t care, he can go where he wants” : these words of the president of the French Football Federation (FFF) Noël Le Graët, addressed to the former footballer Zinédine Zidane, provoked strong reactions from the world of sport and politics. This large-scale controversy is in addition to the cases of sexual harassment and dysfunctions in which the president of the FFF is put in case, while he is auditioned Tuesday, January 10 by the mission responsible for inspecting the institution.

► Messages of a sexual nature

“It’s very simple, he jumps on anything that moves”testified an employee in a survey of the magazine SoFoot on the dysfunctions of the federation and the attitudes of its president, published last September. The survey mentions these “sexual invitations” addressed by the former president of the Guingamp football club to employees of the FFF. Since then, other testimonies of employees who have received grave messages or who have been approached by Noël Le Graët have been reported in the media.

Beyond these testimonies, the article by SoFoot put on the spotlight “a toxic and hostile atmosphere towards women” at the FFF. A formula taken from a hearing report to the industrial tribunal, during a case of sexual harassment on the part of the financial director of the federation.

► Racism in stadiums

Footballers are regularly targeted with racist insults and shouting in stadiums or on the Internet. Kylian Mbappé paid the price on social networks, after his failure in the penalty shootout, in the round of 16 of Euro 2021 against Switzerland.

Asked about this wave of racist insults, Noël Le Graët tempers: “You know, when a black player scores a goal, the whole stadium is standing”. Before continuing: “The racist phenomenon in sport and in football in particular, does not exist, or hardly exists”. This outing had provoked strong reactions, especially from the star striker of the France team. Despite this context of multiplication of insults in the stadiums, no measure has been put in place by the FFF.

► Inaction on homophobia

Homophobia, also present in stadiums, on banners and in supporters’ songs, is also one of the current challenges of football institutions. Several sports personalities thus regularly call for measures to deal with it, such as stopping matches, as the referee is authorized to do in the event of racist songs.

But unlike this case, “stoppage of matches (Editor’s note: to deal with homophobic acts) Does not interest me “, had declared the president of the FFF on franceinfo in 2019. “I would stop a match for racist cries, I would stop a match for a fight, incidents if there is a danger in the stands”.

► Management criticized

In the aftermath of the France team’s coronation at the 2018 World Cup, the federation, which is also a company of around 300 employees, found itself at the heart of several cases of poor personnel management. Some “management methods”inappropriate behavior and unfair dismissals led to the appointment of an internal mediator.

Despite these internal problems, relayed to the New York Times, “Noël Le Graët ensures that things are not as serious as some executives claim”, indicates the article. The mediator, he turned out to be close to the general manager of the FFF, Florence Hardouin, whose management is also questioned by these executives.



Accused of rape, footballer Benjamin Mendy in court in the United Kingdom

The trial of world football champion Benjamin Mendy, accused of eight rapes, an attempted rape and a sexual assault, opens Wednesday August 10 for more than three months in Chester in the north-west of England.

The 28-year-old French footballer, suspended for a year by Manchester City, is accused by seven women and denies the ten charges which relate to facts which allegedly took place between October 2018 and August 2021 at his home in Prestbury, in Cheshire.

A trial supposed to last at least fifteen weeks

He is on trial alongside another man, Louis Saha Matturie (unrelated to former footballer Louis Saha), prosecuted on his side for eight rapes and four sexual assaults on eight women between July 2012 and August 2021. The latter has also pleaded not guilty.

Their trial was originally scheduled to open on July 25 but was postponed for two weeks. It is scheduled to last fifteen weeks, according to the court.

The first days of this long-term trial must be devoted to choosing the jurors and organizing the hearings.

Suspended by Manchester City since the start of the case

Winner of the 2018 World Cup with the France team, where he played the role of good comrade if not one of the key players, Benjamin Mendy left the lawns for almost a year for the bench of the defendants and the cells of Liverpool and Manchester prisons, where he spent more than four months, from August 2021 to January 2022, in pre-trial detention. Released in early January, he was placed under judicial supervision pending trial.

Mendy has not played a single football match since August 15, 2021 with his Manchester City club, which suspended him when the case started.

Trained in Le Havre, revealed in Marseille and spent a season with Monaco, Benjamin Mendy became the most expensive defender in history in 2017 when the Citizens paid 52 million pounds (about 61.4 million euros at the current price). ) to secure his services.

A career punctuated by hopes, never really justified

When he arrived at City, he was considered one of the great French and world prospects at left-back. But his career has been hampered for four years by injuries and he has never really lived up to the expectations placed on him.

During the epic of the Blues in Russia in 2018, he sends back the image of the teaser always ready to turn on his portable speakers and play the role of DJ in the bus or the locker room, to start a dance à la celebrating the slightest goal of his teammates or multiplying “stories” on Instagram.

Benjamin Mendy’s trial opens two days after that of Welshman and former Manchester United star Ryan Giggs, 48, accused of assaulting his girlfriend.



Fencing, a weapon against cancer and sexual assault

Four years after the entry into force of the decree relating to adapted physical activity prescribed by doctors for chronically ill patients, “prescription sport” is only developing timidly. To the astonishment of Didier Leménagé, long director of development and innovation at the French Fencing Federation, who has worked a lot in this field.

“Since 2012, we have been training our fencing masters in the supervision of patients in the reconstruction phase, in particular women operated on after breast cancer”, explains this framework, estimating at a hundred the number of fencing clubs offering this type of service.

The fencer gesture is excellent for rehabilitation after a mastectomy. “Especially the saber (one of the three weapons of the discipline with the foil and the épée) which requires a wider movement and a higher position of the arm which corresponds perfectly to the gestures of rehabilitation”, continues Didier Leménagé, who welcomes this marriage between sport and hospital.

“We met between bald women”

Many oncology departments have formed partnerships with gun rooms, where they send their patients after the operation. Some have chosen to offer the full range of the discipline, with mask, breastplate and real weapon. Others adopt a kind of simulated fencing with plastic weapons and a simple classic jogging outfit.

→ PORTRAIT. Arlette Pommeyrol, sport to overcome cancer

“After the operation, it was a real good time. We found ourselves among bald women because of chemotherapy, we had fun and that allowed us to move without apprehension ”, tells Sylvaine Fanon who followed these sales organized by the Saint-Louis hospital in Paris.

The medical benefit is obvious, but it goes far beyond the gesture. “ It is a combat sport which involves responding to an attack, comparable to that of the disease ”, completes Doctor Dominique Hornus-Dragne, anesthesiologist and fencer from Toulouse who initiated this medical fencing.

“The practice not only helps to regain mobility in the shoulder, it helps fight sleep disorders, concentration difficulties, specifies the doctor. There is also the benefit of image, because this sport requires complete clothing, without nudity, which is important for women who have just had an operation. “

In 2014, she created an association intended to reassure patients, train fencing masters and obtain from the Federation and the Ministry of Sports that the first year of practice be free for medical benefit. This association “RIPOSTE” (Reconstruction Image of oneself, posture, oncology, health, therapy, fencing) issues a sort of label to partner clubs that exist throughout France.

The impact of the blade, a metaphor for rape

Attack / defense, self-esteem, code of honor… Like most combat sports, fencing is also an excellent way of rebuilding for women victims of sexual violence. Since 2012, the Federation has invested in this area as complaints have multiplied. “We are now at more than 700 people welcomed and that is only increasing”, notes Didier Leménagé.

→ REPORT. Sexual violence: fencing, a tailor-made therapy

The Fencing Federation has forged a partnership with the Stop aux Violences Sexual (SVS) association founded by Dr Violaine Guérin, endocrinologist and gynecologist. In association with Boris Sanson, Olympic team saber champion in 2008 who became a physiotherapist, the association offers workshops in several places in France for small groups of women, men or children, assaulted and even perpetrators of aggression. .

Female fencers find sex again

SVS also favors the saber, more instinctive and immediate than the other fencing disciplines. “Rape is first of all a bodily attack before being a psychological attack, explains Doctor Guérin. There is crime, debauchery of deadly energy on the part of the aggressor and impact, in the form of penetration. Our job is to transform this negative energy suffered through fencing which allows the impact to be turned against the opponent. “

There is nothing theoretical about this posture: during SVS sessions, patients face a masked opponent, the fencing master, who symbolically takes the place of the aggressor. “It’s a long process that spans ten sessions. The goal being to release the deadly energy, this often results in assaults of great violence against the fencing master ”.

The results ? They are “Spectacular”, assures Doctor Guérin: “We are at about 80% of professional repositioning, we also have definitive discharges from a psychiatric hospital”, says the gynecologist who also points to a clue that delights her: “We had babies in our patients who had given up all sex life. “


Sexual abusers are also followed

Of the 700 patients treated by SVS since 2012, nearly 10% are aggressors, most often detained in two partner penitentiaries, in Osny (Val-d’Oise) and on Reunion Island. “Many abusers were themselves assaulted in their childhood, explains Dr Violaine Guérin, it is moreover on this condition that we follow them. For them, we set up different mechanisms: we start by assaulting them, so that they bring up the memory of their own rape and become aware of what they have inflicted on someone else. Only then can labor begin. “