PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AFP) – The DR Congo’s Africa Cup of Nations campaign was in turmoil Friday as bitter coach Claude Le Roy, while denying reports he had quit, launched a scathing attack on his employers.
Numerous reports in DR Congo overnight Thursday, suggested the 64-year-old Frenchman had dramatically quit the team 48 hours before their opening game against Ghana in frustration at unpaid player bonuses and poor management.
Le Roy, in his second spell with DR Congo, was said to have handed a letter of resignation to the football federation official in charge of the team, Theo Binamungu.
He later denied this whilst at the same time venting his anger at the DR Congolese Football Federation.
“I never announced I was resigning but I was very bitter to see that all our work had been screwed up (by the crisis over unpaid bonuses),” Le Roy told French radio station RFI.
“It’s mad, devastating to wreck a preparation like this, with such a lack of respect. They’re talking about players as if they’re children whereas they are adults.
“They are competing here (in South Africa) even though it will cost some of them money. Those who play in big clubs lose their bonuses and risk losing their place in the team.
“These players compete here because they are proud to wear their country’s shirt — and we’re not talking about bonuses worth hundreds of thousands of euros per player.”
He added that it was vital that Sunday’s opener against Ghana went ahead.
“You have to remember that in DRC, football is a reason to live for tens of thousands of people — for them we have to play (against Ghana).”
Bonus payments are a perennial problem at the Nations Cup and even further afield, with Togo threatening to strike over the contentious issue hours before kick-off in their 2006 World Cup tie against Switzerland.
They only took to the pitch in Germany after efforts involving World Cup organisers FIFA, the Togo players and the Togolese Football Federation found a last ditch compromise.
Le Roy, who guided Cameroon to the 1988 title, is appearing at a record seventh Nations Cup as coach.