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May 28, 2006

France players tired of boos from Paris crowd

CLAIREFONTAINE, France, May 28 (Reuters) - Several France players, starting with Thierry Henry, criticised the Paris crowd for booing their team in Saturday's 1-0 win over Mexico in a World Cup warm-up.

'We're starting to wonder whether the Paris fans really want us to win games,' said Arsenal striker Henry, who was a substitute at Stade de France and stayed on the bench.

Zinedine Zidane, who will retire after the World Cup and was playing his last match on the pitch where he scored twice in France's 3-0 defeat of Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final, was cheered every time he had the ball but others were not so lucky.

The fans booed coach Raymond Domenech and goalkeeper Fabien Barthez during the team announcement and there were whistles for midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo when he came on for Zidane.

'You would never see that in England,' said Henry. 'Even when we're losing at Highbury, the fans keep cheering and supporting us.

'Fabien (Barthez) received a yellow card at one stage and you had the impression that it made the fans happy.'

Liverpool forward Djibril Cisse was also surprised by the hostile reaction from the fans.

'I can't believe it', he said. 'In England such a thing would be unthinkable. Maybe it's just a cultural thing but it is a problem.'

FED UP

Defender Willy Sagnol also had tough words for the crowd's behaviour.

'I'm fed up with it,' he said. 'It's been going on for a while. The fans have got to understand that when they boo the goalkeeper or another player, they make life difficult for all of us on the pitch.'

The France team get plenty of support when they play in Marseille, Lens or St Etienne but have often had problems at Stade de France, which was built for the 1998 World Cup finals and was inaugurated in January that year.

'In other cities the people who come to see us are club supporters who come to support France and they're great,' said Sagnol.

'In Paris, you get the impression that the people in the stands do not come to support the team but to watch a show.'

Even during the 1998 World Cup-winning campaign, the France players had criticised the spectators at Stade de France, saying they were not genuine soccer fans and not loud enough.

'I think it has gone too far,' said Sagnol. 'Maybe the solution would be for us to stop playing in Paris.

'If it were up to me, we would play all our games at St Etienne. You're always going to get support down there.'

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