Manchester United defender Patrice Evra is relieved to put his South African summer of discontent behind and concentrate on the imminent Premier League season ahead. The 29 year old is one of five players summoned by the French Football Federation to face a disciplinary hearing scheduled for later this month. As team captain Evra is facing sanctions for leading a player revolt at the World Cup but feels that he is being unfairly punished and says he wants to wear his country’s colours once again.
The team boycotted a training session in support of striker Nicolas Anelka who had been banished from the France squad for insulting the national coach Raymond Domenech. Evra insists he never intended for his country’s World Cup campaign to descend into farce. ‘Les Bleus’ endured a nightmare time in South Africa this summer with events conspiring against them at every turn.
Performances on the field proved to be a major disappointment, while goings on off the pitch became increasingly shambolic. The decision to send Anelka home following a dispute with Domenech lit the touch paper leading to a player strike and various reports of in squad disharmony.
As national skipper Evra bore the brunt of the criticism but the Manchester United full back claims he did his best to keep the calm “I gave my all to the position of captain” he told L’Equipe “some people have tried to make me look guiltier than I am without knowing what happened. I gave my best but this is the result. I received complaints after every training session and I tried to pass those messages on to the coaching assistants but nothing happened.”
Evra has also hit back at former France star Lilian Thuram who is now a French Football Federation official for singling him out for criticism and suggesting he should be banded from international football indefinitely. “Thuram? he has smeared my name without trying to know what he is talking about” he added. “Lilian believes he is the coach, federation chairman and president of France. It is time Lilian stopped playing a role which is not his, like saying Les Bleus have made racism more prevalent. It is not enough to walk around holding books about slavery, wear glasses and a hat and believe you are Malcom X.”
Laurent Blanc has now taken over from Domenech and opted to leave out all 23 members of the World Cup squad for France’s friendly against Norway in Oslo this week. The suspended players will be free to return to the squad for future matches however and Evra is confident of a recall “I can’t see my future without the France team” he confessed. Evra also said there was no dialogue between the players and the coach in South Africa and the decision to expel Anelka was unfair.
Being omitted from the France squad to face Norway may end up being a blessing for both Evra and Manchester United because it will give him time to put South Africa far behind and fully concentrate on his club duties. The reality is that Evra will be 33 years old by the time Brazil 2014 comes around with the odds of his remaining a part of the French squad diminishing with every season. Very sad but very true.
Will the dramatic events in South Africa affect Evra’s season at Old Trafford?