French-Muslim striker Nicolas Anelka was one of the cornerstones of Chelsea Football Clubâ€™s championship team last season, helping them win not only the English Premier League but also the European Champions League. But it was an otherwise trying year for the well-travelled forward, as his French World Cup team performed dismally, and he was ultimately kicked off of the team in mid-tournament after a practice ground argument with coach Raymond Domenech. Subsequent to that, Anelka received an 18-match ban from the French Football Association. Now Anelka is voicing his frustration with racism in France and in French football.
He complained to the British press, â€œPeople said there was a clan of black players in the French squad at the World Cup and we then saw the true face of France. When times get tough we find out what people really think.
â€œThey said Franck Ribery had hit Yoann Gourcuff â€“ Ribery the Muslim and Gourcuff the good French boy. Things went too far. When the France team fails to win people start talking straight away about the playersâ€™ skin colours and religious beliefs. The fact that I grew up on a high-rise estate counted against me.
â€œI was 20 when I went to Real Madrid. I bought a Ferrari and people in France criticised me. I have never wanted to sing the national anthem when Iâ€™ve been in the France team. Had they insisted on it Iâ€™d have refused and quit playing for them.â€
The Versailles-born 31-year-old came through the ranks with French club Paris Saint-Germain, but has spent most of his career outside of France, with English clubs including Arsenal, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester City, and now Chelsea, as well as Spanish giants Real Madrid and Turkish club Fenerbahce. He has since announced his retirement from the French national team.