Sarkozy in talks with Henry

2010-06-24 13:57

Paris - French President Nicolas Sarkozy received France striker Thierry Henry on Thursday for talks about the disastrous performance of the national team at the 2010 World Cup.

According to Sarkozy's office, the meeting was called at Henry's request after Les Bleus were eliminated from the tournament Tuesday after the group phase.

France's football failure was accompanied by a one-day team mutiny and the exclusion of striker Nicolas Anelka for insulting manager Raymond Domenech, and has provoked nationwide outrage.

Henry and the rest of the players arrived earlier on Thursday at Le Bourget airport and were greeted only by a handful of security personnel. Henry was immediately whisked away by an official vehicle sent by the Elysee Palace.

On Wednesday, Sarkozy held an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot and the junior minister for sports, Rama Yade, to discuss the side's World Cup fiasco.

A spokesperson for FIFA refused to comment on Thursday on Sarkozy's involvement with the national side, which runs counter to the governing body's rules.

"We have no official information about that," FIFA media director Nicolas Maingot said in Johannesburg.

FIFA has previously suspended several countries, such as Iran and Kenya, because their governments became involved with national football federations.

To meet with Henry, Sarkozy cancelled a meeting with several NGOs ahead of the G20 summit in Canada. To protest the cancellation, the groups decided to boycott a meeting with another member of the government.

"For the president meeting with a football player is apparently more important than the situation of three million poor people in developing countries," a spokesman for the NGOs said.

The daily Liberation reported on Thursday that Sarkozy had cancelled a scheduled meeting with Swiss President Doris Leuthard on Tuesday to watch France's defeat at the hands of South Africa.

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