A court in Toulon on Wednesday rejected David Ginola’s claim for damages against former France coach Gerard Houllier over remarks concerning Ginola’s role in France’s failure to reach the 1994 World Cup.
Houllier had referred to Ginola as a “bastard” in a book and the former Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United winger was seeking 5,000 euros ($6,600) in damages for slander and defamation.
Ginola had pledged to give the money to a sporting association.
However, the court in Toulon found that the word used by Houllier could not be assessed in isolation from its context and also that it could not qualify for both slander and defamation at the same time.
“The court accepted that there were irregularities in the citation,” said judge Didier Guissard.
As a result of their procedural concerns, the court said they had not examined the substance of the case.
During a four-hour hearing, the judge attempted to broker a reconciliation between the two men but without success.
“They took me to the gallows,” said an emotional Ginola.
“My life boils down to 10 seconds of play and 18 years later, I’m treated as a pariah. Gerard Houllier says that I’m an idiot, a bastard, and that I committed a crime against the France team.”
Ginola’s lawyer, Jean-Claude Guidicelli, told AFP that his client was “surprised” by the decision but “will not initiate further proceedings”.
“For him, this decision is a judgment of Solomon — a drawn match with the ball in the middle,” he added.
Houllier’s comments about Ginola’s role in France’s 1993 defeat by Bulgaria appeared in a book written by two journalists, Christophe Daniel and Riolo Paillet, entitled ‘Secrets des Coachs’ (Coaches’ Secrets).
Ginola was widely vilified for an over-hit cross that led to Emil Kostadinov scoring an 89th-minute goal in a 2-1 win in Paris that took Bulgaria to the 1994 World Cup at France’s expense.
Houllier had claimed that Ginola was the victim of nothing more than an unfortunate choice of words.
“I never doubted his integrity,” said the former Liverpool and Lyon coach.
“If I regret anything, it is using the word ‘crime’ in place of ‘serious mistake’. There is no acrimony.”