15 August ~ Leaving the Stade de France after the Thierry Henry handball against the Republic of Ireland, a prominent figure from French politics, Philippe Seguin, remarked to a friend: "Even football isn't what it was." Seguin, a former president of the French parliament, died a few weeks later. If he was glum about France's dubious passage to the World Cup finals, one wonders what would he have thought had he lived to see the mutiny.
This weekend and in coming weeks, members of that inglorious 23-man French squad will cheerfully turn out in club colours, playing the game that makes them exceedingly rich. It seems unlikely many will care that they were absent, through the slap-on-the-wrist collective punishment of being dropped for one friendly, from Wednesday's 2-1 defeat in Norway. Nor that many of the five singled out as ringleaders – Patrice Evra, Franck Ribéry, Nicolas Anelka, Jérémy Toulalan and Éric Abidal – will be too bothered at being summoned to a French disciplinary hearing in Paris on Tuesday.
Manchester United and Bayern Munich have indicated that their men, Evra and Ribéry, may not even attend. What that says about the arrogance of big-club football is appalling enough. The thought that any notion of proper retribution will probably vanish into thin air now that Laurent Blanc has to start worrying about Euro 2012 is worse still.
I live part of the year in France, have a French wife and have often found myself shouting for Les Bleus. The 1998 un-deux-trois-zéro victory over Brazil was a highpoint of my life as a football fan, some way below Sunderland winning the Cup in 1973 but high all the same. But the 2010 France squad brought disgrace on themselves and their country and betrayed a generation of young fans.
Raymond Domenech, as well as being thoroughly inept as a coach, ensured South Africa would be glad to see the back of his unsmiling, underachieving bratpack by refusing to shake hands with the host nation's manager, Carlos Alberto Parreira, after France's final game. That was reportedly a hangover from comments about the Henry handball, though it hardly matters what flimsy reason is given for gross discourtesy.
Since the World Cup debacle, squad members have offered a mixture of qualified contrition, self-justification and silence. Evra has talked of the need to "turn the page" and treat the one-match suspension as adequate penalty. I have a better idea: fine every one of them, and not just the infamous five, three months' club wages and give every penny of the proceeds to sporting projects for underprivileged kids in the banlieues.
My plan has one flaw. According to French reports, the players can be ordered to do a footballing equivalent of community service or banned from Les Bleus for a given period. The one thing that might just hurt – a whacking great fine – is not among the sanctions open to the disciplinary commission. Tant pis. Colin Randall
Colin Randall runs Salut! Sunderland