REUTERS, Jul 11, 2010, 05.45pm IST
PARIS: France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan admitted on Sunday he played a direct part in Les Bleus' boycott of a training session during their disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa and deeply regretted it.
The 26-year-old Olympique Lyon midfielder had been regarded by French media as one of the "nice guys" put under pressure by senior players branded as "immature gang leaders" by sports minister Roselyne Bachelot.
But Toulalan told the weekly Journal du Dimanche that his private press officer helped with the writing of the players' statement on the boycott of a training session in support of Nicolas Anelka expelled for insulting coach Raymond Domenech.
"With a few players, we wrote down a few ideas to explain our views, then with the help of our press officers we gave them some shape to be sure people would understand our approach," he said.
"We didn't approve of what Nicolas Anelka had said, it's bad but it can happen. When the incident made the front page of L'Equipe things moved really fast," he added.
"We heard Nicolas was about to be kicked out, we tried to arrange a meeting with the coach. It never took place because the decision had already been taken."
Anelka's sending off and the boycott of the training session two days before the last group game against South Africa caused an uproar in France.
Toulalan, however, said the players did not realise how serious the situation was.
"I'm not proud of what I did but I accept responsibility," he said. "There were no ringleaders and no slaves, no good guys and no bad guys. We were all involved and we are all responsible because nobody said a word (against the boycott)," he said.
The midfielder also denied playmaker Yoann Gourcuff had been ostracised and even physically threatened by more senior players like Franck Ribery or Anelka.
"It's totally untrue. I even heard that I had to pull apart Franck and Yoann, It's a load of rubbish. They never had an argument," he said.
Toulalan added that he was deeply affected by Les Bleus' first round exit without a win.
"We should have talked to each other on the pitch and shown during the games the solidarity which was ours in support of Anelka," he said.
"I'm going through a nightmare. I'm still wondering how we managed to do such things. It's a stain on my career and it will be very difficult to wipe it off."
So far the players who have spoken out seem to be telling the same story. I appreciate his honesty and I'm hopeful the French team will come back stronger than ever.