Henry to answer to Sarkozy
Paris – President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday met football star Thierry Henry at the Elysee palace as he sought an explanation for the French team's disastrous showing at the World Cup.
Henry flew in from South Africa and was immediately taken in a chauffeured limousine provided by the French presidency to the meeting with Sarkozy, who has called for those behind the debacle to be held responsible.
France has reacted with a mix of humiliation and anger to their team's elimination from the tournament after two defeats, one draw, a players' strike and squabbles in the dressing room.
A big football fan, Sarkozy has been criticised from some quarters for turning football into an affair of the state.
"That the president is taking charge of football is not a normal situation but we are not facing a normal situation," said deputy Thierry Mariani, a member of Sarkozy's UMP party.
"Football is part of our country's image. Restoring our image is the head of state's duty," he said.
The government has severely criticised the French "Bleus", with spokesperson Luc Chatel saying they had lacked "respect, team spirit, pride and enough dignity to wear the shirt of any club, from the smallest local side to that of the French national team."
Sarkozy scrapped a scheduled meeting with non-governmental organisations to discuss the upcoming Group of 20 summit to make time for Henry, France's top goal-scorer of all time.