[FRANCE] All 23 members of France's 2010 World Cup team have been suspended for France's friendly against Norway on Wednesday, but five could face further
disciplinary measures. Nicolas Anelka, whose insults directed at Coach Raymond Domenech triggered the series of events
that led to the team boycott of practice in South Africa, Patrice Evra, Franck Ribery, Eric Abidal and Jeremy Toulalan must appear before a French soccer federation (FFF) disciplinary committee on Aug. 17 to explain what happened.
Evra, the French captain, and Ribery, the vice-captain, are charged with organizing the mutiny a day after Anelka was kicked off the team for refusing to apologize for insulting Domenech at halftime of the France-Mexico game.
After arriving at practice, the players returned to their team bus, where they drew the shades and prepared a statement that they were boycotting practice out of support for Anelka.
Former French captain Lilian Thuram, a member of the FFF national council, says Evra and Ribery met with FFF officials twice to discuss the Anelka matter but never told their teammates that Anelka was sent home for refusing to apologize.
"If the other players knew that Anelka refused to apologize publicly," Thuram said, "there would never have been a problem on the bus."
Abidal faces further disciplinary charges for refusing to play in France's last game against South Africa. (Irony: he was responsible for both goals in France's 2-0 loss to Mexico and would have probably not played against Bafana Bafana.)
Toulalan faces charges for writing (or having his agent write) the statement issued by the players and read -- in one of many bizarre twists to this affair -- by Domenech himself.
Of the five players, only Ribery (who separately faces charges of having sex with an underage prostitute) and Toulalan would be missed if their suspensions are extended. The others don't have a future on the team being rebuilt by Laurent Blanc.
In another twist to the matter, Patrick Braouezec, a member of France's National Assembly and of the FFF committee that examined the incidents in South Africa, says no one has been able to confirm that Anelka even used the expletive-laden comment that the newspaper L'Equipe said he did in its page 1 headline that triggered the outrage.
"L'Equipe no doubt didn't completely invent them," said Braouezec, "but they were words that should have been confirmed and verified before putting them on Page 1."
Anelka has sued L'Equipe for defamation.