Anelka 'dying with laughter' over France ban

Nicolas Anelka today claimed he was "dying with laughter" despite the 18-match suspension imposed by the French Football Federation which is likely to spell the end of his international career.

The FFF came down hard yesterday on the Chelsea striker for his part in the internal strife which contributed to Les Bleus' early exit from the World Cup in South Africa.

Patrice Evra was handed a five-match ban, Franck Ribery a three-match suspension, Jeremy Toulalan a one-game ban, while Eric Abidal and the remaining members of the 23-man squad have escaped further punishment, having already missed the first match of Laurent Blanc's reign as coach.

For 31-year-old Anelka the punishment will almost certainly mean he finishes his international career on 69 caps.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker appeared unconcerned and reserved his ire for the disciplinary commission of the FFF.

He told France-Soir: "For me, this whole commission thing is a nonsense, a charade not to lose face.

"The so-called punishment has no relevance whatsoever because, for me, the French national team was an issue which ended on June 19 when I was kicked out of the training centre at Knysna.

"This is just to entertain the public, to turn the page because Laurent Blanc needs to be able to work in peace.

"These people are clowns. I am dying with laughter."

Anelka, Evra, Abidal, Ribery and Toulalan were called to yesterday's hearing to discuss the behaviour of the national team during the World Cup, when in-fighting led to them being eliminated at the group stage.

Les Bleus' campaign descended into farce after the squad went on strike after Anelka was sent home from South Africa following an altercation with then coach Raymond Domenech.

France also finished bottom of their group after scoring just one goal and earning one point in three matches.

The fall-out from the team's lamentable performance led to new coach Blanc suspending all 23 members of the World Cup squad from his selection from the friendly against Norway in Oslo earlier this month, while the FFF also withheld bonuses owed to the players.

Barcelona defender Abidal, Manchester United defender Evra and Toulalan, of Lyon, appeared at the hearing, while Anelka and Bayern Munich winger Ribery sent representatives.

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