Anelka kicked out of France squad

KNYSNA - Striker Nicolas Anelka departed the World Cup in disgrace on Saturday after insulting France coach Raymond Domenech and refusing to apologise.

Anelka insulted Domenech in a crude manner at half time of a 2-0 defeat by Mexico on Thursday in Polokwane after the coach had criticised the player's attitude on the pitch and decided to take him off for the second half.

Such a scandal was the last thing France needed after a disastrous start to their World Cup campaign and another embarrassing early exit looming large following their Euro 2008 flop.

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"The comments made by Nicolas Anelka are totally unacceptable and it was normal for us to take such a decision," French Football Federation (FFF) president Jean-Pierre Escalettes told a news conference at France's base in Knysna, Western Cape.

The fact that Anelka's brutal words were printed on their front page by French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday was not the reason why the FFF acted the way they did, Escalettes added.

"We did our little inquiry and Raymond Domenech confirmed to us what was said," he said.

Anelka, Escalettes said, muttered the words in a corner after Domenech's remarks and the coach heard them. The player refused to apologise, the FFF president added.

"HEATED CONVERSATION"

The striker reacted by saying he had words with Domenech but denied having said the foul-month comments attributed to him by L'Equipe.

"I have a lot of respect for France and for all my team-mates, I insist on that," Anelka was quoted as saying on the website of French daily France Soir.

"I wish to state that the words printed in the press were not my words," he added.

"I did have a heated conversation with the coach in the secrecy of the locker room, between the coach and myself, in front of my team-mates and the staff. It should never had come out of the locker room."

France captain Patrice Evra said he felt sorry for Anelka, who was playing his first World Cup for the 1998 winners and 2006 runners-up and wasted a chance to show off his unique talent on the biggest stage of all.

"It's another hard blow to the France team," Evra told reporters. "I'm hurt and he is hurt. He's sad to leave us because he loves that France team, unlike what is being said here and there."

Evra deplored that L'Equipe had printed Anelka's words, and also that somebody inside the team had told the newspaper what the player had said.

"The problem is not Anelka, it's the traitor among us, who told the press what was said," the left back said. "There's somebody in our group that wants to harm the France team."

HEAVY CRITICISM

The 31-year-old Anelka, who has scored 14 goals in 71 internationals, had faced heavy criticism from the French media for dismal displays in warm-up games and in the team's opening 0-0 draw with Uruguay.

Domenech had still kept faith in him and left Thierry Henry, France's record scorer with 51 goals from 122 appearances, out of his starting lineup for France's two matches so far.

By insulting Domenech, Anelka emulated former French enfant terrible Eric Cantona, who had called national team coach Henri Michel a "scumbag" in 1988 and did not play for France for months as a result.

French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot reacted to the Anelka incident by urging the France players to show dignity.

"The very high pressure weighing on Les Bleus does not authorise any form of slip-up," Bachelot said in a statement.

"The players must keep in mind that they're wearing France's colours and are considered as role models by many youngsters. This obliges them to show restraint and dignity."

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