The president of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, is being investigated for sexual harassment, the prosecutor’s office told AFP on Tuesday.
The investigation was opened on Monday after accusations were made against Le Graet by soccer agent Sonia Souid in a matter that has rocked French soccer just weeks after France was beaten by Argentina in the World Cup final.
“He told me very clearly in his apartment that if I wanted him to help me, I had to let him do what he wanted with me,” said Souid, who gave interviews to the sports daily L’Equipe and the RMC radio station.
Le Graet has been president of the FFF since 2011 but was forced to resign last week pending the outcome of an audit of the federation by the French sports ministry.
The 81-year-old is still officially recognized as president by world governing body FIFA.
He had faced calls to resign, including from sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, after what he admitted were “clumsy comments” about Zinedine Zidane’s possible interest in coaching the French national team.
Le Graet said in an interview with RMC that he “would not have even answered his call” when asked if Zidane, a World Cup winner as a player and one of France’s all-time greats, had called him to express their interest in assuming the position. as trainer of Didier Deschamps.
Deschamps, who led France to World Cup glory in 2018 and oversaw their career until the final last month, recently signed a new contract to stay on as manager until 2026.
Le Graet, whose mandate runs until 2024, has been replaced on an interim basis by Philippe Diallo, vice president of the organization.
Le Monde newspaper first reported at the weekend that officials carrying out the Paris-based body’s audit had denounced Le Graet to prosecutors after a “sexist outrage” complaint was filed against him.
Speaking to AFP on Saturday, he said he was stunned by the leaks to the media.
“I have just read with astonishment an article in Le Monde reporting leaks in the interim audit report being prepared,” he said.
“At this moment I know neither the facts of which I am accused nor the people who are behind them.
“More generally, I am surprised that information can be released even though the interim report has not yet been sent to me and I have not been able to comment.”
The affair cast a shadow over French football shortly after it lost on penalties to Argentina in an epic final in Qatar.
Looking to become the first team since Brazil 60 years ago to successfully defend the World Cup, France came from two goals back to tie the final 3-3 with Kylian Mbappe scoring a hat-trick, before succumbing in a penalty shootout.
The France men’s national team returns to action at the end of March when the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign begins.
The French women’s team, ranked fifth in the world, qualified for this year’s World Cup, which takes place in Australia and New Zealand in July and August.