Five rebel French players face disciplinary case

The French football federation opened a disciplinary case on

Friday against five of the players who went on strike at the World

Cup in South Africa.

Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribery, Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan and

captain Patrice Evra will appear before the disciplinary commission

of the French federation later this month.

The federal council of the federation asked the disciplinary

commission to give a ruling on the case after reviewing a report

from a commission of inquiry set up last month.

The commission is expected to gather within 15 days.

The French federation said in a statement the five players were

summoned ”because of their behavior or roles within the

group.”

Regarding other players, the federal council considered that

withholding World Cup bonuses which were due to be paid for

advertising benefits, added to the collective suspension for next

week’s friendly in Norway, were ”appropriate” punishments.

However, the disciplinary commission is allowed to hear more

players if it discovers new material during its investigation, the

federation said.

”This is a balanced decision,” Laurent Davenas, a member of

the three-man inquiry commission, told The Associated Press.

”It would have been impossible to ask the disciplinary

commission to hear all 23 players,” he said. ”We tried to target

some of them. We have the feeling that some players were king

pins.”

French federation president Fernand Duchaussoy said before the

meeting of the federal council that such a move did not necessarily

mean sanctions would be taken.

Three investigators have interviewed 18 of the 23 World Cup

players, staff members and federation officials who were in South

Africa when all the players decided to boycott a training

session.

The strike was intended to protest Anelka’s exclusion from the

squad following an expletive-filled tirade directed at then-coach

Raymond Domenech during a 2-0 loss to Mexico.

According to Patrick Braouezec, a deputy in the French national

assembly who was a member of the inquiry commission, none of the

players who were questioned confirmed the Chelsea striker used the

offensive and crude words printed by sports daily L’Equipe after

the altercation.

Braouezec told RTL radio on Friday that the players accepted

collective responsibility in the case.

”They were not pressurized and there were no leaders,” he

said.

Anelka never denied ranting at Domenech but took L’Equipe to

court for libel, accusing the newspaper of distorting his words.

The case is unlikely to start until after this month.

After Anelka’s words were splashed across the front page of the

newspaper, the French football federation sent the striker home,

and the following day the entire squad refused to take part in

training in protest at the decision.

That day, Evra had a lively altercation with the team’s fitness

coach that was captured on TV. Former international Lilian Thuram –

France’s most capped player and also a member of the federal

council – said the Manchester United defender should never play for

the team again after leading the boycott.

Lyon midfielder Toulalan also admitted that his personal press

officer helped the players write a letter explaining their strike.

Domenech agreed to read the letter to the media in South

Africa.

Bayern winger Ribery was a vice-captain at the World Cup while

Barcelona defender Abidal refused to play France’s last game

against South Africa.

Newly-appointed French coach Laurent Blanc dropped all the World

Cup players for next week’s friendly in Norway as collective

punishment for their actions.

Blanc now hopes the disciplinary commission will not impose

further suspensions on the players, a decision that would hamper

his team’s chances in the qualifying race for the 2012 European

Championship.

France crashed out in the first round at the World Cup without

winning a match. France also failed to get past the group stages at

Euro 2008.