French star Nicolas Anelka’s international career is effectively over following the 18-game ban he was handed by the French soccer federation (FFF) for
his tirade at Coach Raymond Domenech during halftime of the France-Mexico game at the World Cup. Three other players, Patrice
Evra, Franck Ribery and Jeremy Toulalan, were handed shorter suspensions for their role in the training camp
mutiny in protest over Anelka's expulsion from the World Cup.
SUSPENSIONS. Evra, the French captain in South Africa, received a five-game ban, Ribery, the vice-president, was suspended three games, while Toulalan, who wrote the boycott letter issued to the press, was handed a one-game suspension. The suspensions are all subject to appeal.
Eric Abidal, the fifth player called to the four-hour disciplinary hearing, was not punished. He had already announced his international retirement.
“They are a bit bruised by the way things unfolded,” said Jean Mazzella, president of the disciplinary commission. “They didn’t think it would take on the proportions that it has, that’s for sure.”
Only Evra, Toulalan and Abidal attended the hearing. Bayern Munich, which opens the Bundesliga season at Friday, refused to let Ribery travel to Paris. Anelka also sent a lawyer in his place.
The players already have been punished financially, with the federation withholding World Cup bonuses.
All 23 World Cup players boycotted the training session two days before the final game against host. They were all suspended from the Aug. 11 friendly against Norway and had their World Cup bonuses withheld.
REACTION. Anelka wasn't upset, telling the French newspaper France-Soir that he was "dying from laughter" and had already turned the page on the national team.
"In any event," he added, "I play in blue every weekend for Chelsea."
He said the whole episode had been a "mascarade" and the FFF disciplinary commission -- which he called "true clowns" -- should also turn the page so new coach Laurent Blanc could get to work on rebuilding the national team.
Elsewhere, reaction to the suspensions was mixed. Everyone was in agreement on one thing, though. It was time to drop the matter and move forward.
Laurent Davenas, a member of the FFF commission that investigated the discipline problems at the World Cup, said Anelka's suspension was out of proportion with the others.
"Eighteen games is very severe," he said. "You might as well have banned him for life."
Lorient coach Christian Gourcuff, whose son Yoann was on the French team, said the FFF has gotten things backwards.
"Everyone has forgotten the essential thing: what happened on the field," he said in reference to France's first-round exit without a win. "No one talks about it."
FUTURE. Only Ribery and Toulalan figure to be part of Blanc's squad that will begin Euro 2012 qualifying in September.
Longtime French coach Guy Roux called the suspensions "stupid and mean."
"The FFF is without its best player [Ribery] for three games and its second best player [Toulalan] for the start of qualifying. That's great. The federation sure wants to make qualifying difficult."
As for Anelka's suspension, Roux joked, "That beard he likes to have will be white by the time he's finished his suspension."