Anelka suspended for 18 matches for World Cup rant

Paris: The French Football Federation
suspended Nicolas Anelka for 18 matches for his role in the
France team`s World Cup fiasco, and handed a five-match ban to
former captain Patrice Evra on Tuesday.

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
four-hour hearing, escaped any sanctions.

All 23 players on France`s World Cup squad boycotted a
training session in South Africa to protest Anelka`s expulsion
after he insulted then-coach Raymond Domenech during a 2-0
loss to Mexico.

But the French federation only summoned the five players
who played a leading role in the mutiny. Ribery and Anelka --
whose dressing room rage triggered the strike -- sent lawyers.

Ribery, who was vice captain at the World Cup, did not
attend the hearing because Bayern Munich refused to release
him ahead of its opening Bundesliga match on Friday against

Only Evra, Abidal and Toulalan showed up at the hearing,
federation official Yann Le Guillard said.

"The players seemed sincerely sorry for what happened,"
said former France team director Jean-Louis Valentin, who
resigned when the players refused to take part in a training
session and, instead, sat in the team bus under the eye of
cameras from around the world.

"I felt they were very affected by that event.”

"It`s obvious that if they had to do it again, they
wouldn`t do it," Valentin said.

Domenech was among those who attended today`s hearing,
along with then-FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes and
assistant coach Alain Boghossian.

Valentin, who attended the hearing as a witness and was
the only one to comment later, expressed a clear measure of
sympathy for what he said where chastened players. As far as
he is concerned, he said, "everybody has the right to a second

He said that dialogue within the group called to testify
was "excellent" and that Domenech was "dignified."

"We talked again about the events. In some ways, there
was a very good dialogue that was, at times, moving," Valentin

"Everybody was aware that there was a collective mess-up,
and now we have to turn the page and move on."
France was eliminated after the first round of the World
Cup without winning a match. But it was the players` actions,
including the squad`s sit-in on the team bus, that horrified
the French public and drew condemnation from President Nicolas
Sarkozy and other political leaders.

The players have already been punished financially, with
the federation withholding their World Cup bonuses. Hardliners
like Lilian Thuram, a former international and a member of the
FFF council, even said Evra should never play for France

France coach Laurent Blanc who wanted to move on after
having dropped all 23 players for his first match in charge
last week -- a 2-1 loss to Norway in a friendly -- will miss
Anelka, Evra, Ribery and Toulalan for the 2012 European
Championship qualifier against Belarus in September.

Bureau Report