France and Olympique de Marseille goalkeeper Fabien Barthez has been banned from competitive football until 15 October at the earliest after the French Football Federation (FFF) decided to increase his suspension for spitting at a referee.
The 33-year-old was handed a six-month ban by the FFF's disciplinary committee following a hearing on 21 April, but with three months of the sanction suspended subject to good behaviour, he was due to be sidelined until 25 July 2005. The 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2000 UEFA European Championship winner spat at match official Abedellah el-Achiri during an ill-tempered friendly game between Marseille and WAC Casablanca in Morocco on 12 February.
However, the FFF appealed against its own decision and the federation's superior appeals committee today handed a stronger penalty to Barthez. The goalkeeper has been banned until 31 December 2005, but will be able to return to action from Saturday 15 October provided "he executes, before this date, ten tasks benefiting amateur football, fixed by the amateur football league and approved by the FFF's federal council".
Blow to France hopes
Barthez's enforced absence leaves France without their No1 goalkeeper for their remaining four FIFA World Cup Group 4 qualifiers. The French top the pool on goal difference from Israel, but face crucial trips to the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland before ending their campaign at home to Cyprus on 12 October. Barthez will also miss the start of Marseille's 2005/06 season, with the fourth-placed Ligue 1 club set to compete in UEFA competition.
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