French farce goes on as retired Nicolas Anelka gets ban
The bizarre and bewildering story of the French players' revolt at the World Cup continued yesterday when the French Football Federation made the meaningless gesture of handing an 18-game ban to Nicolas Anelka, a player who had already announced his retirement from international football.
The Chelsea player was not present in Paris for the inquest into the events that surrounded France's early exit from the competition in South Africa, although he did send a representative.
“We wanted Anelka's sanction to set an example,” disciplinary commission president Jean Mazzella said.
The other players in the farce were treated more leniently. The French captain, Patrice Evra, was suspended for five matches for leading a boycott of a training session in South Africa in June in support of Anelka, who was banished from the squad for insulting the former coach Raymond Domenech.
The FFF's disciplinary commission also gave a three-match ban to Franck Ribery and a one-match suspension to Jeremy Toulalan. Eric Abidal, the fifth player summoned to the hearing, escaped any sanctions.
Barcelona defender Abidal, Manchester United defender Evra and Toulalan, of Lyon, appeared at the hearing, while Anelka and Ribery of Bayern Munich sent representatives.
The former France team director Jean-Louis Valentin said: “The players now realise that they should never have done such a thing. We have to acknowledge that and they deserve another chance.
“As a lover and supporter of the France team, I think everyone deserves a second chance. I felt the players are truthfully sorry and have been left damaged and mortified at what took place, they were conscious of a collective meltdown.”