Nicolas Anelka has laughed off an 18 match international ban served on him by the French Football Federation (FFF). The Chelsea player also described France’s football administrators as “clowns”.
The World Cup in South Africa was a disaster for the French. On the pitch, they secured only a single point from a draw with Uruguay before losing to Mexico and South Africa, and suffering the indignity of an early flight home.
And off the pitch a series of disputed between coach Raymond Domenech and his players hit the headlines. Anelka was sent home for using abusive language and the rest of the squad refused to train as a protest. Domenech has since resigned and been replaced by Laurent Blanc.
The Disciplinary Council of the FFF set up an inquiry into the fiasco and issued bans of various lengths to several players. But Anelka, who did not attend the hearing, was the most harshly treated, receiving a ban that left him “doubled up with laughter.”
Anelka has now said that he always intended to retire from international football after the World Cup. At 31, he wishes to concentrate on his club career. Describing the ban as meaningless, Anelka stated that France’s footballing rulers have “punished a void.”
He also claims that the FFF is merely treating him as a scapegoat to save their own reputations, as they were the ones who had appointed Domenech in the first place.
New coach Blanc is the man left to pick up the pieces and to attempt to restore France’s footballing reputation. But he will have to do so without the services of several key players as he begins the qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championship.
The captain of the World Cup team, Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, has been banned for five matches for his involvement in the revolt. Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery has been suspended for three games and Jeremy Toulalan of Lyon for one.
Anelka meanwhile will concentrate on trying to win more trophies with Chelsea.
Clowns running football? International bans that turn out to be meaningless? It’s just as well incidents like this could never happen in Scotland, isn’t it?