French footballers quizzed in scandal
Top France internationals Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou have been questioned as witnesses in relation to a child prostitution investigation after allegations that a Paris nightclub frequented by Les Bleus players was employing under-age girls.
Ribery and Govou were summoned before an examining judge following reports that another unnamed footballer admitted to having sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 - though he claimed to be unaware of her age - an offence which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. Other France internationals are also set to be interviewed about events at the Café Zaman nightclub.
Sophie Bottai, Ribery's lawyer, said: "My client was called as a witness, but had no other part to play in this matter. The matter stops there."
A so-called "pimp" said to have organised girls for players has been arrested, and a number of young women are being questioned too, according to Judge Yves Dando.
French privacy laws prevent the publication of kiss-and-tell stories, with a number of professional footballers thought to be regularly exploiting this rule by visiting prostitutes in Paris.
The French Football Federation has since supported the implicated players, stating they are innocent until proven guilty.
A statement on the official website read: "The French Football association have learnt about the prostitution scandal which implicates simply as witnesses at this stage some footballers from the France team. In this context the FFF would like to make the following remarks:
"The FFF would like to highlight their commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence. The Federation has every confidence in the justice system to carry the investigation through and identify those possibly responsible.
"Not having access to the case, the Federation will abstain from any comment until the courts have given their conclusions, all the while remaining aware of the development of the proceedings and of their consequences.''
Lyon have released a statement denying Govou is involved. It read: "Olympique Lyonnais would like to publicly give their support to their player Sidney Govou whose name has been unfairly mentioned in a judicial affair.
"The club would like to highlight the comments of his lawyer Thierry Braillard who affirmed that Sidney Govou is not implicated, neither directly nor indirectly, in this affair.
"Olympique Lyonnais reaffirm their support and confidence in Sidney Govou with whom they mean to continue to prepare in the best conditions Wednesday's semi-final against Bayern Munich.''