Tuesday, June 22, 2010

French mutiny ends as sponsor pulls out

KNYSNA -The France World Cup squad resumed training here on Monday, a day after they went on strike over the expulsion of forward Nicolas Anelka.The 21-man squad jogged round the pitch while embattled coach Raymond Domenech chatted with his coaching staff.

Anelka’s foul-mouthed outburst at coach Raymond Domenech sparked a chaotic chain of events, with the striker being kicked out of the team after the bust-up at half-time during France’s defeat to Mexico was revealed in a French newspaper.  The forward, who plays for English Premier League champions Chelsea, arrived back in London early Monday, after his teammates had refused to take part in a session on Sunday.

Amid extraordinary scenes at their training base in South Africa and in full view of TV cameras, team captain Patrice Evra had a shouting match with fitness coach Robert Duverne before the scheduled session, forcing Domenech to intervene.  When the players refused to train, a furious Duverne stormed off and threw his stopwatch across the pitch in frustration.

The players’ mutiny prompted top French Football Federation (FFF) official Jean-Louis Valentin to resign, saying he was “disgusted” by the players.

Domenech read out a statement from the players expressing their opposition to the decision to kick Anelka out of the squad and said they deplored the way the dressing room bust-up between him and Domenech had been revealed by sports daily L’Equipe on Saturday.  “We regret the incident at half-time of the France versus Mexico match, but we regret even more the divulging of an event which was only the squad’s business and was part and parcel of the life of a top-level team,” the statement added.

Anelka, 31, was sent home after refusing to apologise for the expletive-laden outburst at Domenech after the coach had criticised his low-key first-half performance in the 2-0 defeat to Mexico on Thursday.  France, the 1998 World Cup winners and 2006 runners-up, are supposed to be preparing to face host nation South Africa today in their final group Group A game with qualification on the line.  If Mexico and Uruguay draw their match, France are out of the tournament regardless of the result against South Africa.

Meanwhile, France’s Credit Agricole bank suspended its sponsorship of the French World Cup football team on Monday after internal divisions in the camp exploded into a full-blown crisis.  The announcement came after French fastfood chain Quick said Sunday it was stopping advertisements starring France’s star striker Nicolas Anelka, who was sent home from the Cup after a foul-mouthed rant at coach Raymond Domenech.

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