French hope psychology will kick-start soccer team

After a humiliating World Cup, the French soccer team hopes

gaining insights into human behavior can put it on course

again.

France is turning to psychological profiling and has hired

someone coach Laurent Blanc believes will give him a greater

understanding of his players.

Les Bleus are rebuilding after the World Cup debacle under

former coach Raymond Domenech left the players’ confidence and the

team’s reputation in tatters.

Having already urged his players to learn France’s national

anthem and requiring them to sign a conduct code, Blanc is now

delving deeper.

”Someone who can help us go a bit further into the human that’s

behind the player,” Blanc said Thursday. ”To have some more

information about the personality of each player.”

The profiler has not been identified, but the French Football

Federation said he is working under the supervision of team doctor

Fabrice Bryand. The players met him for the first time Tuesday.

The French team went on strike during a World Cup practice in

South Africa, protesting the decision to send home Nicolas Anelka

for insulting Domenech. The French were knocked out in the first

round after failing to win a game, and were heavily criticized when

they returned home.

Blanc is trying to make a clean break with Domenech. He

acknowledges that he needs help in instilling his players’ belief

in the team and insists psychology can play a role.

”In individual sports, you get a lot of top sportsmen who have

a mental coach or a profiler, whatever you want to call it,” he

said. ”There have really been some good results in golf and

tennis. It’s a bit harder in a team sport. You have people with

different characters, some people are more introverted and some

more extroverted.”

Blanc says there are too many negative preconceptions about

accepting psychological help.

”As soon as you talk about psychology or psychiatry, it becomes

a dangerous thing. ‘Oh, I don’t need that, I know myself well,”’

Blanc said. ”But some people still don’t know who they are at 80

years old, and never know who they are throughout their lives. So

if we can help people know themselves better, then there’s no

danger.”

Blanc says nothing overly dramatic is being done.

”Don’t think we went into a dark room with someone and lay down

on a yellow couch,” he said. ”It’s just someone who came here

with some methods of his own. … The players really got involved,

without having any second thoughts. I even did the same work on

myself 15 days ago.”

France defender Adil Rami was receptive to the initiative.

”He asked interesting questions,” he said. ”About our

character, our behavior and decisions we have made in our

lives.”