World Cup

Evra says 'traitor' leaked details of rant

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Nicolas Anelka has been thrown out of France's World Cup squad after insulting coach Raymond Domenech and refusing to apologize, the French football federation said Saturday.

The Chelsea striker reportedly made obscene comments to Domenech at halftime during the 2-0 loss to Mexico on Thursday, and then refused to apologize when asked to do so by FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

"Faced by the refusal of the player to publicly apologize, he (Escalettes) took the decision in total agreement with the coach and the official members of the delegation present in Knysna to exclude Nicolas Anelka from the squad," the FFF said in a statement. "He will leave the French team camp this evening."

Anelka confirmed he had an argument with Domenech - but that it was meant to stay within the team.

"I indeed had a heated conversation with the coach, but it happened within the confines of the changing rooms, between the coach and me, in front of my teammates and the staff," Anelka told the website of France Soir newspaper. "That should never have come out of the changing rooms. I don't know who can benefit from that, but repeating these kind of things certainly doesn't help (the team)."

The FFF said that France captain Patrice Evra was also present with Escalettes when the decision was taken, adding that Anelka's comments are "totally unacceptable for the FFF, French football and the values it defends."

Anelka said he regrets having upset his teammates. Previous reports said he had fallen out with France midfielder Yoann Gourcuff, demanding that Domenech drop Gourcuff from the Mexico game.

"My aim was never to destabilize the French team, an institution I respect. I accept my exclusion from the France team and I wish them good luck," Anelka said. "I have a lot of respect for the France team, I equally have a lot of respect for all of my teammates without exception, I insist on that point."

Evra said a "traitor" among France's World Cup staff must have leaked details of Anelka's rant.

It "came from someone in this group, who wishes the French team harm," Evra said. "The problem isn't Anelka, it's the traitor among us, you have to say it.

Fri., Jun. 11
South Africa 1-1 Mexico | Recap
Uruguay 0-0 France | Recap
Wed., Jun. 16
South Africa 0-3 Uruguay | Recap
Thu., Jun. 17
France 0-2 Mexico | Recap
Tue., Jun. 22
Mexico 0-1 Uruguay | Recap
France 1-2 South Africa | Recap

"How can this come out?"

Two unconvincing performances in the 0-0 draw with Uruguay and against Mexico had observers like former France defender Bixente Lizarazu furious at Anelka's casual attitude.

"What bothers me is Nicolas Anelka's performance in the first half. I saw a player strolling ... strolling in the World Cup!" Lizarazu said. "He wasn't aggressive, wasn't interested in the game. Domenech took him off at the break, but should have done so before. You shouldn't play in a selfish manner, you have to show you're up for it."

Like Eric Cantona before him, Anelka will now be remembered as one of the most controversial players to represent France, and one of the most talented but enigmatic ever to wear France's blue shirt.

Cantona, who once kicked a spectator in England, also had a spell in the international wilderness after insulting France coach Henri Michel live on television after he was dropped for a friendly match against Czechoslovakia in 1988.

Cantona's tirade against Michel kept him out of the France squad until Michel Platini recalled him a year later, while Anelka had an even longer spell out.

Anelka has long been an enigmatic player for France, scoring twice in a stunning performance against England way back in 1999, but then refused to play under coach Jacques Santini and spent three years out of the national team until Domenech called him back up in November, 2005.

Six months later, Domenech snubbed him for the 2006 squad. But Anelka seemed to have put that all of that behind him when he scored a deflected goal away to Ireland in the World Cup playoff last November.

Having won two English league and cup doubles, with Chelsea this season and with Arsenal 12 years ago, the Premier League's Golden Boot in the 2008-09 season, the European Championship with France and the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2000, Anelka's last-remaining ambition was to be a World Cup star.

Anelka was overlooked by Aime Jacquet in '98 because the coach thought he was too young.

He won Euro 2000 under coach Roger Lemerre, who subsequently did not pick him for the 2002 World Cup because he took Djibril Cisse, Thierry Henry, and David Trezeguet - the top scorers from the French, English and Italian leagues.

Domenech's decision to snub Anelka in 2006 was more surprising because he had recalled him from his international exile. But even when Cisse broke his leg on the eve of the World Cup, Domenech called up Sidney Govou.

Ironically, it was precisely because Anelka did not want to be a replacement for the injured Govou for a friendly match against Yugoslavia in November 2002 that he had turned his back on Santini's team.

Anelka then told Paris Match magazine that he would only return if Santini got on his knees and begged.

To add further irony, Govou and Anelka played up front together against Uruguay and Mexico - and failed miserably.

Anelka's unselfish attitude for Chelsea this season won him many admirers, and his reputation greatly improved since the days English football fans mockingly nicknamed him "Le Sulk" for his surly attitude.

However, his abrupt nature has made him few friends in a topsy-turvy career where he always spoke his mind.

His criticism of Domenech's lack of tactical awareness when France lost 2-0 to European champion Spain in March was perhaps an ominous sign of things to come.

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