South Africa (Reuters) – The France players are not interested in meeting French sports junior minister Rama Yade a week after she said the team’s hotel in South Africa was too flash, defender Eric Abidal said on Sunday.
Some France players, including Abidal, were scheduled to visit a township later on Sunday at their World Cup base in Knysna, Western Cape, where Yade was to hold a news conference.
Asked if the players would meet Yade, Abidal said: “Whether she’s there or not makes no difference. We’re not going there to meet Rama Yade but to see the mayor, the children, to see how they live and to become more familiar with their culture.”
Yade stirred controversy last week by criticizing the French Football Federation (FFF) for choosing a luxury resort as the squad’s residence.
The Denmark team, also staying at Knysna, have already visited the same township, accompanied by Danish officials.
“The Danes may get on well with their authorities but for us, it’s not the case,” Abidal said.
France, whose popularity at home has hit a low after a string of uninspired performances, are staying at the Pezula Resort, a select hotel on the scenic Western Cape coastline.
“Personally I would not have chosen that hotel,” Yade told a French radio station last week. “I had asked football authorities to show decency. In times of crisis, you need to think about it.
“If the team’s results do not meet our expectations, the (French Football) Federation will have to account for this,” she added.
The players, Abidal said, made it clear they disagreed with the junior minister’s criticism.
“We talked about it between us and I think she got the message,” he said. “It (the message) is that the group are not happy.”
France, who needed a controversial playoff win over Ireland to book a place at the finals, kicked off their campaign with a 0-0 draw with Uruguay at Cape Town on Friday. They will next face Mexico and South Africa in Group A.
(Editing by Jon Bramley)