HOUSTON – French Guiana coach Jair Karam said he and his team knew the risks of Florent Malouda playing in Tuesday night’s Gold Cup Group A match against Honduras, and decided they were worth taking.
Despite CONCACAF’s ruling that Malouda is an ineligible player, Karam started and captained the former French national team stalwart and European star in what finished a 0-0 draw, but may be ruled a 3-0 forfeit defeat for the tournament debutants.
Karam said the team decided Malouda should be held out of French Guiana’s group opener Friday, a 4-2 loss to Canada, but came to a different conclusion Tuesday.
“We knew it was a big environment that was surrounding the case of Malouda so we decided not to have him in the first match,” Karam said through a translator. “But after analyzing and reading and knowing all these rules, we decided to take our chances for the second match.”
Malouda had been ruled ineligible by CONCACAF because tournament rules say teams must follow FIFA eligibility guidelines. The complication is that French Guiana – as an overseas department of France – is only a CONCACAF member not recognized by FIFA, which considers it a part of France.
Therefore, even had Malouda wished to represent the land of his birth in FIFA World Cup qualifying, for example, he would've never had the chance.
CONCACAF has not yet ruled the match a forfeit, but issued a statement immediately after the final whistle saying the result would be evaluated by its disciplinary committee.
“In regards to the election of the French Guiana National Team to field player Florent Malouda in this evening's Gold Cup match against the Honduras National Team, and in line with the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017 Regulations which are governed by FIFA Regulations pertaining to player eligibility, the matter has been referred to the CONCACAF Gold Cup Disciplinary Committee,” the statement reads. ”The Disciplinary Committee will review the case and render its decision in due time.”
Karam said the team made the decision knowingly and considering precedent from elsewhere around the globe.
“If you look at other examples, like in Kosovo, where they have other players that have played with teams of other nationalities, it’s the same situation as well,” Karam said through a translator.
Karam said the team looked at those similar situations and they “felt like this was applicable.”
Honduras national team head coach Jorge Luis Pinto said that he knows the French Guiana teams was warned about using Malouda. He added that it was logical Malouda couldn’t play in the game due to his past experience with the French national team.
Malouda said his playing for his home country was simply a chance to help further its soccer history.
"French Guiana is trying to exist internationally in this area (soccer)," he said. "Trying to be able to play and develop the local football. So that's the strategy. ... There's nothing political behind it."
For the moment, both teams will wait for the CONCACAF Gold Cup Disciplinary Committee’s ruling. It could mean three points for a Honduras side that has yet to score in the tournament. Or one point for French Guiana and a chance to play for it all against Costa Rica on Friday.