Blanc ignores minister's call for ban on rebels

Blanc ignores minister's call for ban on rebels

Published Feb. 1, 2011 7:34 p.m. ET

France coach Laurent Blanc is adamant he will call up whoever he wants for next week's friendly against Brazil, despite a call from his country's sports minister for a ban on the players who went on strike at last year's World Cup.

Blanc told regional newspaper Midi Libre that Chantal Jouanno had the right to her opinion on the matter, but added that he remained ''totally free'' in his choices.

France's players were accused of being a disgrace to their country after going on strike at last year's tournament. They boycotted a training session in protest at Nicolas Anelka being sent home by team management after his profanity-laced tirade against then-coach Raymond Domenech during a 2-0 loss to Mexico.

Blanc will announce his squad Thursday for the friendly on Feb. 9.


''I will answer on Thursday at 2pm,'' Blanc said. ''I'm totally free. We are fortunate enough to live in a democratic country where everyone has the right to have an opinion. That also means we have the right not to share someone's else views.''

France was widely criticized at home over the conduct of its players in South Africa, where the team failed to go beyond the group stage.

Anelka was subsequently suspended for 18 matches by the French football federation while former captain Patrice Evra (five games), Franck Ribery (three games) and Jeremy Toulalan (one game) were also banned for their part in the boycott.

Federation president Fernand Duchaussoy said last week that Evra is now eligible to return to Blanc's team now that his ban has ended.

Jouanno, who admitted she has not the right to prevent the players' return, said the rebels put France to shame.

''There are values and the French federation should defend them,'' she said. ''I have nothing against Evra, but as a France player - and above all as the captain - he didn't defend the values of sport. It would be a huge mistake to forget what happened.''

Blanc is unlikely to recall Frank Ribery on Thursday after the Bayern Munich player picked up another knee injury.

''I meet a lot of people who are telling me they hope we can turn this page, but each time the French squad gets together the same old stories return,'' Blanc said. ''I hope the match against Brazil will be a chance to take another step forward.''