The 44-year-old made reference to World War II in a scathing attack on his compatriots over their allegedly indifferent attitude to his World Cup-winning team-mate
Emmanuel Petit has accused France as a nation of being “hypocritical and cowardly” over a perceived lack of love for Thierry Henry, revealing that he sometimes thinks it would have been better if the country had been “overrun by the Germans”.
Henry looks set to have played his last game as a professional following New York Red Bulls’ MLS Cup elimination at the weekend, though the forward has yet to confirm if he will now call time on his illustrious career.
The 37-year-old’s potential retirement has made headlines in England, where Henry spent eight years plying his trade with Arsenal, who unveiled a statue of the striker outside the Emirates Stadium in 2011 in recognition of his status as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Henry, though, does not enjoy as strong a bond with his native France – despite playing a key role in the country’s World Cup triumph in 1998.
Now, in an astonishing outburst that makes reference to Germany’s occupation of France during World War II as well as Henry’s infamous handball in a World Cup play-off against Republic of Ireland in 2009, Petit has accused his compatriots of exhibiting hypocrisy and cowardice in their attitude towards his former team-mate.
“In England, they’ve built a statue of Thierry,” the ex-Arsenal midfielder told Sports.fr. “That means a lot. He’s adored there. It bothers me.
“What can we reproach Henry for? His handball against Ireland? He helped France qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. He has done nothing.
“France is hypocritical and cowardly. Sometimes I think that if we’d been overrun by the Germans, we’d be better run.
“He’s not hated but he’s certainly not loved. He got screwed by the French press after his handball and has since not spoken to the French media.
“In France, he has no collusion with the press, so what? Perhaps because he was not smiling when he scored for les Bleus! Well, that’s what I hate in this country.
“I have great difficulty with the French, I have never seen such arrogant, smug, lying and hypocritical people.”
Petit, who was capped 63 times by Les Bleus, spent three years at Arsenal himself, between 1997 and 2000.