The Chelsea striker told France Soir that “everybody stuck together” when the players decided to boycott a training session. - Reuters Photo

PARIS: Nicolas Anelka said on Thursday all his teammates decided to go on strike at the World Cup after he was sent home from South Africa for verbally abusing France coach Raymond Domenech and refusing to apologize.

The Chelsea striker told France Soir that “everybody stuck together” when the players decided to boycott a training session shortly before their World Cup ended in the group stage.

Anelka, who recently signed a one-year contract extension with Chelsea that ties him with the English club until 2012, added that a clash would have happened even if he hadn’t insulted Domenech.

“If there were some players who wanted to train (when the squad went on strike), they should speak now,” Anelka said.

 “If I had not started it, it would have been somebody else. The situation was explosive.”

Anelka was sent home after aiming an expletive-laced tirade at Domenech during halftime of the 2-0 defeat to Mexico. The players’ strike that followed was a protest against Anelka’s exclusion from the squad.

Former France defender Lilian Thuram has called for some players, such as former captain Patrice Evra, never to play for the national team again because of their decision to strike.

France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan said last week, however, that all the players decided to strike and that any punishment should be collective, prompting Anelka to praise the Lyon player’s courage.

“Jeremy has a strong character,” Anelka said. “You need some courage and a big mental strength to bear something like this.”

Anelka also lashed out at former France defender Bixente Lizarazu, who won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship with Les Bleus. Lizarazu, now a TV pundit, had criticized France’s poor level of play in South Africa.

“Lizarazu, who’s he?” Anelka said. “Because when he speaks, it sounds like he is a living legend.

“The only way he’s found to reinvent himself is to torpedo others. He’s just a former player lacking in recognition, frustrated by the success of his mates (Zinedine) Zidane and (Christophe) Dugarry. Did he forget the 2002 World Cup?”

Lizarazu was part of the France team that was knocked out, as defending champion, in the first round of the World Cup that year without scoring a single goal.

“I hadn’t been called up but I didn’t make a single comment,” Anelka said. “I wouldn’t have allowed myself to make such criticism. He should stop speaking about respect because we all remember when he slapped his captain at Bayern Munich during a training session.” – AP