French players walk out as team director hands in notice

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The Independent Online

France's erratic World Cup campaign took another twist yesterday when the players walked out of a training session at their Knysna base in South Africa.

Barely 24 hours after Nicolas Anelka was sent home for arguing with Raymond Domenech, the team's coach, the remaining squad members left the pitch and boarded a bus where a meeting took place behind closed curtains. Later Jean-Louis Valentin, the team director, resigned after revealing the squad did not want to train.

Meanwhile ITV was at the centre of a storm over World Cup ticketing after its sacked football pundit Robbie Earle claimed his former employers had supplied him with 400 tickets to the tournament, fully aware that they would be used by a third party. Earle, an ITV pundit since 2002, also claimed a top executive at the broadcaster agreed to his request for the allocation, which included England's group games and 40 seats with a face value of £600 each for the final on 11 July.

ITV dispensed with Earle's services after seats allocated to him were taken by women recruited by a Dutch brewery in an "ambush marketing" stunt at the Holland-Denmark match last week.

But the pundit insisted in yesterday's Mail on Sunday that he told ITV the tickets were for a "close friend" and for use by his family, friends and "business clients". he said: "I told them I was giving them to a friend and I asked if he could pay ITV directly for the tickets."

Separately, the England fan who burst into the national team's dressing room on Friday in the aftermath of their goalless draw against Algeria was arrested on a charge of trespass following an extensive search by South African police on Saturday.

Pavlos Joseph, from Crystal Palace, south-east London, said he had been seeking a bathroom rather than an opportunity to vent anger at the squad. He claimed a security guard had directed him towards the players' tunnel, explaining there were toilets nearby.

The intrusion, which happened minutes after Princes William and Harry had visited the players, prompted the FA to make an official complaint to Fifa, which promised to tighten security.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, Mr Joseph described the moment he arrived in the dressing room. "I looked David [Beckham] straight in the eye and said, 'David, we've spent a lot of money getting here. This is a disgrace. What are you going to do about it?'"

He said he then addressed the players, who were sitting on benches with towels around their waists. "I told them, 'That was woeful and not good enough'. The room was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. The players' chins were on their chests – they looked pretty ashamed."

Mr Joseph said he then handed his card to a Fifa official who escorted him out of the dressing room.

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