Anelka to retire from French squad
Reports suggest star forward insulted his coach at halftime in loss to Mexico
French star Nicolas Anelka apparently has retired after he was thrown off his nation's World Cup team after getting into a heated exchange with coach Raymond Domenech and refusing to apologize.
The Chelsea forward reportedly made obscene comments to Domenech at halftime of France's 2-0 loss to Mexico on Thursday. He was asked to make amends 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 said 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 episode is another blow to a French team that made the World Cup finals in 2006 but is on the verge of being eliminated from the 2010 tournament after a listless draw with Uruguay and the Mexico loss.
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.
"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."
Winner of the Premier League's Golden Boot in 2008-09, Anelka has long been an enigmatic player for France. He scored twice in a stunning performance against England way back in 1999, but then refused to play under coach Jacques Santini. He spent three years off 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 against Ireland in a World Cup playoff last November.
Anelka's abrupt nature has made him few friends over a topsy-turvy career during which he has always spoken his mind.
But his unselfish attitude for Chelsea this season won him many admirers, and his reputation had greatly improved since the days English soccer fans mockingly nicknamed him "Le Sulk" for his surly attitude.