Raymond Domenech

Raymond Domenech profile: France coach 'another sort of human comedy'

Since taking over the reins as France coach in 2004 Raymond Domenech could easily be mistaken for something resembling a success story, having led Les Bleus to within a penalty kick (and a headbutt) of the World Cup in 2006 before becoming the longest serving French coach ever.

However, in this specific case reality bites ... hard. Domenech's career in control of the French national team has been one of ups, downs, laughs and cries and, for a man with a history and very public interest in theatre, he has undoubtedly played a starring role in what he once described "another sort of human comedy".

With France on the brink of another embarrassing exit from a major competition and Laurent Blanc waiting in the wings to succeed Monsieur Domenech after the finals in South Africa, here are a selection of his high/low lights from a very entertaining six years.

2004 – the curtain raiser
Raymond Domenech was appointed France coach on July 12 2004 as the successor to Jacques Santini and inherited a national side in turmoil having been eliminated at the group stages of euro 2004.
French radio journalist Eugene Saccomano said of the appointment:
"When he took the reins of the national team I was very astonished. He goes to the cinema, reads books and does theatre: he is an intellectual at the head of the national team."
Without ever attributing their decision to the arrival of Domenech, veteran trio Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram all announced their retirement from international football shortly after.
2006- It was written in the stars
By the time World Cup 2006 had come aroundthe trio were back having made a consensual u-turn in time to salvage a desperate qualifying campaign for the finals in Germany.
However, Domenech's finest hour fell in the build up to the tournament with the revelation that a passion for astrology had impacted on his squad selection.
"All parameters have to be considered and I have added one by saying there is astrology involved," he said.
Robert Pires, being a Scorpio, was viewed with great suspicion by his manager and was subsequently left out.
And it proved that Scorpios were not the only casualties of such a bizarre policy with Domenech making public his mistrust in Leos.
"When I have got a Leo in defence, I've always got my gun ready as I know he's going to want to show off at one moment or another and cost us."
Yet it was Domenech who had the last laugh by leading Les Bleus to the World Cup final where they were narrowly beaten by Italy on penalties.
2008- Raymond Domenech: A love story
It was a case of another European Championshipand anothershock first round exit for France.
Having hit the headlines before the tournament with the shock omissions of Mathieu Flamini, David Trezeguet, Philippe Mexes and Gael Clichy, Domenech stole the show at a press conference immediately after his side's 2-0 defeat to Italy by publicly proposing to his long term partner Estelle Denis.
When asked about his future he replied: "My future? The only plan I have is to marry Estelle."
He later apologised for what he described as merely a "moment of humanity."
He explained: "It was just a thought. Everyone was so sad and I thought to myself, life has its beautiful moments. You have to tell people you love them."
2009- Raymond Domenech: A love story II
Though only indirectly responsible, the release of a love song in tribute to Domenechserved to quicken the France coach's transition from enigma to comedy act.
'Je kiffe Raymond' (I fancy Raymond) was written and performed by Catherine Ringer, a former porn star, and included the heart rendering lyrics: "If he attacked my penalty areas I would be without defenders.":wacko:
Emphatically upstaged, a humble Domenech could only respond by saying that he was: "flattered and embarrassed."
2010- His final scene
Having qualified for World Cup 2010 by way of the most obvious handball since the 'Hand of God' in a play-off against the Republic of Ireland, it seemed that France and Domenech were fighting a lost battle going into the tournament in South Africa with a series of high profile damnations.
"The least that should happen is that a new coach comes in," said France 1998 World Cup winner Bixente Lizarazu.
"Domenech plays around with people, but if you do that you end up falling flat on your face," said goalkeeper Gregory Coupet.
"I wouldn't have done a single thing the same as that man," said Christophe Dugarry. "He is a total disgrace."
French football pundit, Jean-Michel Larque, published a book suggesting that Domenech had embarrassed his country, and even forced amateurs to give up the game.
"The image of the side today is catastrophic and there's no logic in the way he works,"
Michel Platini, summed up the collective negativity felt in France by saying: “There is a Raymond problem, which is a problem of personality, not as a coach. His proposal after the euros hurt the whole of France.”
World Cup 2010
In the context of a disastrous pre-tournament campaign that saw William Gallas injured in a motorised buggy incident, domestic squabbles and defeat by non-qualifiers China it is perhaps no surprise that Les Bleus have failed to reproduce the magic of 2006 in South Africa.
For a coach who once claimed to have incorporated theatre techniques into his coaching, progression from Group Ais now out of his hands after a draw and a defeat against Uruguayand Mexico.
The latter including the moment when simmering in-squad tensions finally boiled over with Nicolas Anelka, in a throwback to his days of infamy when persistent petulance earned him the tag 'le sulk', politely suggesting that his much maligned coach "go screw yourself, dirty son of a whore" during the half time break.
This was deemed an offence that warranted immediate substitution and the Chelsea striker has since been banished from South Africa ahead of France's final Group A game against the host nation where Les Bleus are relying on a 'miracle' to ensure qualification to the second round.
Domenech's curtain call lies on the horizon without suggestion of an encore.
"At the beginning I tried to be myself, but I realised it wasn't possible because you can no longer say what you really think," said Domenech.
"It's a shame. I feel that people in general and the media don't understand me. Any comments I make become a state affair. I've become more wary and more reserved. This job has taught me two things: to shut up and when I do speak, to speak more slowly.
"I still love the theatre, but these days I have to content myself with some improvisation and some one-man shows at my press conferences.
"It's another sort of human comedy.

soulful dog

What an incredibly entertaining manager he has been, it's going to be a disaster for everyone outside France when he leaves and Blanc takes over ;)
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