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Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Blatter warning for France government

Soccernet staff

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has reiterated warnings to the French government from Jerome Valcke, the secretary general, that it must tread very carefully in its dealings with the French Football Federation (FFF).

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French president Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated his government will investigate the national team's humiliating performance in South Africa, but Blatter said that raised the risk of the team being suspended from global tournaments if Sarkozy meddles in the running of the national soccer federation.

The FFF "can really rely on FIFA in case of political interference, even if it is at the presidential level," Blatter said. "France made an affaire d'etat of football, but football remains in the hands of the federation."

FIFA's rules specifically prohibit governments from involvement with the running of national federations and it has the power to suspend any federation where there is evidence of such interference.

Blatter also told reporters he regretted the resignation of Jean-Pierre Escalettes as FFF president, adding France's status in world football would not prevent FIFA stepping in. "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 has punished federations before. Greece were European champions when they were suspended for several days in 2006; Iraq served a suspension in 2008; and Ethiopia were kicked out of their qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup.

However, the French government is adamant it has no case to answer on a day when a parliamentary committee questioned both Escalettes and outgoing coach Raymond Domenech about the World Cup debacle.

"There is no interference," Luc Chatel, the government's spokesman, said at a press conference. "It is the role of the state to think through, with the federation, a problem that goes beyond simple sport. The French team represents the country, not just the federation."

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