French international footballers Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou in prostitute scandal
France's international football team was mired in a sex scandal as two of its most famous players, Franck Ribery and Sidney Govou, were questioned about child prostitutes.
By Peter Allen, Paris
Published: 11:57AM BST 19 Apr 2010
Franck Ribery Photo: REUTERS Ribery, 27, and Govou, 30, were summoned before an examining judge following allegations that a Paris nightclub was employing under-age girls.
Many multi-millionaire football stars are said to be regulars at the club, with at least one said to have had sex with a prostitute under the age of 18.
The unnamed player
has admitted sleeping with the girl, but said he believed she was an adult at the time.
A so-called "pimp" said to have organised girls for players has been arrested, and a number of young women are being questioned too.
Judge Yves Dando said he was speaking to Ribery and Govou solely as witnesses, but their involvement in a sex scandal will come at the worst possible time for France.
The team was widely criticised last year for the way they qualified for the World Cup finals. Thierry Henry, the former Arsenal star, was alleged to have handled the ball which set up a goal against Ireland which secured the draw France needed to go to South Africa, where the competition starts in June.
But while international players for teams like England have frequently been involved in scandals involving sex and alcohol, this is the first time that the French have been connected with any sleaze involving their personal lives.
A judicial source said the players involved were unlikely to be charged, but costly divorce proceedings and a loss of sponsorship could follow.
Like many celebrities, football stars frequently visit prostitutes in Paris because French privacy laws prevent the publications of kiss-and-tell stories.
Ribery joined German club Bayern Munich for more than pounds 25 million in 2007, and has frequently been linked with a move to Chelsea.
He is considered the best French player at the moment, and was in the France side which reached the World Cup final in Germany four years ago.
Ribery converted to Islam to marry his French Algerian wife, Wahiba. The couple have two daughters.
Govou, a winger with European Cup semi-finalists Lyons, is single but has a five-year-old daughter with his former girlfriend, Pascale.
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."
Counsel for Govou also deny any wrongdoing.
Jean-Pierre Escalettes, president of the French Football Federation, said: "An investigation is under way. There is nothing else to say at the moment."
France won the World Cup in 1998, with a team of hugely respected footballers, including Muslims and many with African and Caribbean backgrounds, becoming a symbol of multicultural France.