PARIS - French Football Federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes had felt helpless against a player revolt at the World Cup that led to him handing in his resignation, he said on Wednesday.
Escalettes, who quit on Monday in the wake of France's shambolic World Cup showing, told a parliamentary commission he could do nothing to stop the players boycotting a training session in support of expelled striker Nicolas Anelka.
The 75-year-old official told the commission about the incident at Knysna in South Africa's Western Cape, and how he had tried to convince the players sitting in the team coach that refusing to train was not a good idea.
The players, who eventually left the World Cup in disgrace with just one point and one goal from three group matches, would not listen and continued the boycott to protest against the FFF decision to kick out Anelka after he had insulted Domenech.
Escalettes and outgoing France coach Raymond Domenech, who also appeared at Wednesday's hearing, told the commission they had tried their best to reason with the rebellious players.
"He (Escalettes) told us that in the coach they (Escalettes and Domenech) had used every conceivable argument in vain," commission member Lionel Tardy told reporters after Wednesday's hearing, that took place behind closed doors.
"Escalettes told us they faced a wall (of opposition), something he had never experienced in over 50 years of experience in football, and they could not make it fall," he added. "For him, something was broken that day."
Escalettes faced criticism for failing to prevent the squad's implosion but also for having always supported Domenech, whose traumatic six-year tenure ended with France's elimination.
Domenech, whose lack of authority and vision were exposed at the World Cup, told the commission French sports daily L'Equipe had contributed to the team's collapse by printing Anelka's crude insults on its front page.
The insults had been muttered by Anelka at half time of the 2-0 defeat by Mexico in their second group game. Two days later, the L'Equipe story came out and later that day, the striker was sent home after failing to apologise.
"Domenech told us that the front-page story was what started everything," Tardy said. "He said that without it, he would have been able to handle the situation."
Escalettes and Domenech avoided media on Wednesday by using a back door to enter the National Assembly building in Paris and left just as discreetly over two hours later.
They did not make any comments before or after the hearing, that was scheduled to be public but took place behind closed doors at the request of the FFF.
"I find it scandalous that those two people refused to speak in the presence of media," commission member and former Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour told reporters during a break.
"I can't understand what they need to hide from the French people," he added.
France's woeful campaign and the players' revolt in South Africa sparked a national debate with senior politicians getting involved.
Wednesday's hearing took place a day after FIFA president Sepp Blatter warned that football's world governing body would suspend the FFF if France's politicians interfered in its business.
If France were suspended, the country would be banned from international tournaments and French clubs could not take part in European competitions.comments