(MENAFN -Arab News) LONDON: Nicolas Anelka, West Bromwich Albion’s French striker at the center of the ‘quenelle salute’ storm, on Wednesday urged the Football Association to drop anti-Semitic charges against him
The 34-year-old forward performed the controversial gesture, putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other, in last month’s 3-3 draw at West Ham
Anelka faces a lengthy ban after the FA on Tuesday said he had made a gesture that was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper” and included “a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.
Anelka has until 1800 GMT on Thursday to respond to the charge and if found guilty he faces a minimum five-game suspension, under new anti-discrimination measures introduced by the FA in May last year
The ‘quenelle’, popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, has been described by critics in France as an inverted Nazi salute, but Anelka has insisted that it was merely “a dedication” to the comic, who he calls a friend
On Tuesday he pointed out that the head of French Jewish organization CRIF, Roger Cukierman, suggests the ‘quenelle’ could only be considered anti-Semitic if performed in front of a Jewish institution such as a synagogue
Anelka, in a statement on his Facebook page, added: “I therefore ask the English FA to kindly remove the charge made against me. And I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist.” The FA had appointed an academic expert to advise on the case before it brought the charge, but Anelka questioned “what better expert” there could be than CRIF president Cukierman
Anelka added: “The English Football Association has hired an expert to decide the meaning of my quenelle, who concluded that my gesture had an anti-Semitic connotation, which led to my charge by the FA
“It would have been more legitimate for this expert to be French, living in France, who would have an accurate knowledge of my actions
“What better expert thanCukierman, president of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France), who explains very clearly that my quenelle could not be regarded as anti-Semitic! “He also explained precisely and when the gesture could have such a connotation.” Anelka, a former France international, has continued to appear for the club despite the furor and played in his side’s 1-1 draw with Everton on Monday, the same day club sponsors Zoopla announced they were withdrawing financial backing next season over the Anelka issue.