Time for French soccer to move on

TIM KEEBLE, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Nicolas Anelka made headlines all over the world this past summer at the World Cup in South Africa, when he was famously sent home following a 2-0 defeat to Mexico because of a profanity-laced tirade launched at manager Raymond Domenech.

This led to the team deciding to boycott training in protest of Anelka's departure, and made the French national team the laughingstock of the soccer world.

But things didn't end there, as the French Football Federation handed down an 18-game suspension to Anelka this past week, while also banning Patrice Evra (5 games), Franck Ribery (3 games) and Jeremy Toulalan (1 games) for their roles in the event.

Anelka's suspension will likely bring an end to his international career, as he will be 33 years old when his ban is lifted in time for Euro 2012 (assuming France qualifies).

However, according to Anelka, his French career has already come to an end, and he had a few parting shots for the Federation just to add to the craziness.

"For me, this whole commission thing is a nonsense, a charade not to lose face," the Chelsea striker said.

"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 center 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."

While these words sound like they are coming from the mouth of a disgruntled employee, they also contain an element of truth.

There is no doubt that Anelka was way out of line in doing what he did, and he was rightly punished for it by being sent home. But the French Football Federation also deserves some of the blame as they announced the appointment of Blanc as the next head coach prior to the World Cup, making Domenech a lame duck.

Therefore, at the first sign of trouble, the players turned on their manager because they knew that he was gone at the end of the World Cup anyway.

Anelka is right-on with his assessment that the suspensions are "a charade not to lose face," because right now French football needs all the help it can get in trying to restore a tattered image.

Not only did France endure the embarrassment of its team boycotting training, but they also had to watch as Les Bleus managed to earn just one point from their three group stage matches, leaving them in last place in Group A.

A sex scandal involving an underage prostitute and three national team players - Ribery, Karim Benzema, and Sidney Govou - also made for some interesting tabloid reading prior to the World Cup.

And just two years before, France failed to advance past the group stage at Euro 2008, as the team could only manage to score one goal.

To say that French football has not exactly bathed itself in glory over the past few years would be an understatement, and that is not including the Thierry Henry handball which helped France reach the 2010 World Cup in the first place.

No, the members of the Federation cannot be blamed if the players perform poorly on the field, but according to Lille coach Rudi Garcia, the punishments they are handing down are only making the situation worse.

"Those sanctions are weakening the future of the France team," Garcia told msnbc.com. "We need to again find a conquering France team with all its assets. Laurent Blanc himself said that we shouldn't shoot ourselves in the foot. Well, there are a few toes hurt."

Blanc already suspended the entire 23-man World Cup team for a friendly match against Norway on August 11, and the latest round of suspensions only serves to further dig up the past, something that France certainly doesn't want to do.

Instead, the team should try and move forward with a new manager as they begin qualification for Euro 2012 on September 3 against Belarus.

The French Football Federation needs to let go of the past, because there certainly isn't anything - in recent memory, at least - worth holding on to.

08/20 10:45:55 ET


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