France international striker Nicolas Anelka’s international career all but officially came to an end as he received an 18-match ban for his foul-mouthed outburst at then coach Raymond Domenech at the World Cup, a French Football Federation disciplinary commission decided.
The commission also handed out a five-match ban to World Cup captain Patrice Evra, three matches to vice-captain Franck Ribery and one match to Lyon midfielder Jeremy Toulalan.
Eric Abidal, the fifth player called before the commission – Ribery was not present as his club Bayern Munich refused to release him and Anelka, as expected, did not show up – convinced the commission that he was an innocent party and was absolved.
The five players had been called to appear before the disciplinary commission over the strike that shamed the World Cup finals squad as they went on strike in protest at the expulsion from the squad of Anelka over his outburst at then coach Raymond Domenech.
Evra and Ribery were summoned for not performing their duties properly as captain and vice-captain, Toulalan for being responsible for wording the statement which was humiliatingly read out by Domenech, Abidal for refusing to play in the final group match against South Africa.
Anelka, who is suing L’Equipe newspaper for defamation for misquoting what he said, had also been asked to turn up to explain his behaviour but the 31-year-old will more than likely not be too discomforted by the ban as he had already intimated that he would not play for France again.
The FFF had preferred not to summon all the squad members and had pinpointed the quintet as the players most responsible for the shambles which made France a laughing stock.
Former deputy managing director of the team Jean-Louis Valentin was one of those called to give evidence and the only one to speak publicly immediately after doing so.
Valentin, who was one of the few to emerge with his dignity intact at the finals having quit in tears in disgust the day they went on strike, said that he had discerned a genuine sense of remorse from the three players who had turned up.
“I sensed that the players are truthfully sorry, and been left damaged and mortified at what took place, they were conscious of a collective meltdown,” said Valentin.
“I believe that now it is imperative we turn the page and move on.
“I believe that to a certain extent there has been a very good dialogue in there (at the commission) whihc lasted a relatively long time.
“As a lover of the French team, and as a supporter of the France team, I think that each player has the right to a second chance.”
The French Players’ Union (UNFP), however, hit out at the sanctions saying they had been taken to mollify political and media pressures.
“On the other hand the officials who voted for Raymond Domenech to stay in the job in 2008, went unpunished even though everyone knows that they were the real culprits,” a UNFP statment said.
All three players left the hearing without commenting, Evra and Abidal climbing into cars with tinted windows while Toulalan made do with a simple old taxi.
Domenech, who the FFF are seeking to sack altogether from his contract with the National Technical Direction (DTN) without paying him any compensation for what is perceived to be behaviour unbecoming of a French national coach, exited the building without being noticed.
He had earlier tried to avoid the massed media presence by running into the building.
Others to have given evidence included former FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes and Domenech’s assistant coach and World Cup winning midfielder Alain Boghossian, now assistant to Domenech’s replacement Laurent Blanc.