PARIS // The French Football Federation (FFF) has opened a disciplinary case against five players who went on strike at the World Cup in South Africa in June. Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribery, Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan and captain Patrice Evra will appear before the disciplinary commission of the FFF later this month. The federal council of the federation asked its disciplinary commission to give a ruling on the case after reviewing a report from a commission of inquiry set up last month. The commission is expected to gather within 15 days.
"This is a balanced decision," Laurent Davenas, a member of the three-man inquiry commission, told The Associated Press. "It would have been impossible to ask the disciplinary commission to hear all 23 players," he said. "We tried to target some of them. We have the feeling that some players were kingpins." Fernand Duchaussoy, the FFF president, said before the meeting that such a move did not necessarily mean sanctions would be taken.
Three investigators have interviewed 18 of the 23 World Cup players, staff members and officials who were in South Africa when the players decided to boycott a training session. The strike was intended to protest Nicolas Anelka's exclusion from the squad following an expletive-filled tirade directed at then-coach Raymond Domenech during a 2-0 loss to Mexico. Cesare Prandelli , the new Italy coach, has named long-overlooked forwards Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli and Amauri in his squad for his first game in charge against Ivory Coast in a friendly on Tuesday.
Balotelli, Inter Milan's 19-year-old striker, who is being courted by Manchester City despite a series of on-and-off the field problems, earns his first call-up alongside Brazil-born forward Amauri. The inconsistent Juventus striker had the chance of making the Brazil squad last year but hung on to gain Italian citizenship only to be ignored by Marcello Lippi for the Azzurri's World Cup humiliation.
In all there are eight new call-ups and only nine players remain from the squad which went to South Africa as defending champions but were dumped out in the group stage. Prandelli has signalled a possible end to the Italy careers of Antonio Di Natale and Gianluca Zambrotta by leaving them out. * Agencies