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French football chief Noël Le Graët resigns amid sexual harassment probe

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France’s longtime football coach Noël Le Graët resigned as president of the French Football Federation (FFF) on Tuesday amid a scathing audit commissioned by the sports ministry into a legal probe into alleged harassment. .

The 81-year-old French Football Federation president was suspended in January following an investigation into allegations of sexual and moral harassment.

His resignation comes 13 days after the French sports ministry commissioned a damning report from the Paris-based FFF’s management practice.

The report by the French Inspector General for Education, Sport and Research said Le Graet should not return because his “excessive behavior was incompatible with the discharge of his duties”.

Vice President Philippe Diallo will serve as its interim president until June 10, when the next federal parliament convenes, the FFF said.

Le Graët is the former president of Breton club En Avant Guingamp and has been in charge of FFF since 2011.

His timing at the helm coincides with the resurgence of the French men’s national team as a powerhouse that triumphed at the 2018 World Cup and then reached last year’s final in Qatar, where they lost to Argentina on penalties.

But in early January, Zidane’s firm grip on the job loosened amid anger over dismissive comments that he might be interested in coaching the national team.

His comments sparked a backlash from politicians and sports figures, including France star striker Kylian Mbappe, who criticized Le Graet for “disrespecting the legend” Zidane.

Days later, the embattled football executive was investigated for sexual and psychological harassment following allegations made by a female football agent, Sonia Souid.

As pressure mounted, sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra joined calls for Le Graet to step down, saying the longtime FFF boss “no longer has the legitimacy to manage and represent French football”.

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Despite confirming Le Graet’s resignation on Tuesday, the FFF criticized the sports ministry’s audit, saying it was “based on objective facts and not on assessments”.

Le Graet, whose term ends in 2024, said he would challenge the audit findings through “all legal avenues”.

“I have never harassed anyone, morally or sexually,” he told French sports daily L’Equipe on Tuesday night.

Le Graet added that FIFA president Gianni Infantino had told him he could take charge of the Paris offices of football’s world governing body.

“I met Gianni Infantino in Paris (on Monday) and he handed the responsibility to me,” Le Graet said.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request to clarify Le Graet’s role.

Infantino appointed Le Graet as his personal representative at the FIFA satellite office in Paris in January 2022, responsible for liaising with member federations in Europe and Africa.

“The French Football Federation has done a fantastic job,” Infantino said last year when announcing his appointment, “and I have often had the opportunity to speak with Noel Le Graet to better understand how the example set by France can support football development projects around the world.” Base”.

(AFP, AP, Reuters FRANCE 24)

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