Nicolas Anelka has launched a defence against the Football Association's decision to suspend him for using the allegedly anti-Semitic "quenelle" gesture during West Brom's 3-3 Premier League draw with West Ham.
The Baggies forward posted a statement on Facebook defending his actions, confirmed by The Guardian. He also linked to a video of Roger Cukierman, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, explaining the gesture on Twitter:
Rien à ajouter http://t.co/y9XiXwGwPk— nicolas anelka (@anelkaofficiel) January 21, 2014
However, Cukierman appeared not to support Anelka in comments given on the website of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institution. The Associated Press, via Fox Sports, provides the quotes:
It must be noted that the quenelle gesture has spread dangerously among our fellow citizens and especially among young people. I was disappointed by Anelka's attitude, whose behavior is the opposite of that which should be shown by a top-class athlete to the youths of our country.
As reported by French newspaper Le Figaro (via BBC Sport), Cukierman had previously stated the gesture should not be seen as anti-Semitic when used away from locations of "significance for Jews":
That gesture can only have an anti-Semitic connotation when performed at a synagogue or a memorial to Holocaust victims.
In a place that has no significance for Jews, it is merely an anti-establishment gesture which I feel does not warrant any harsh sanction.
Anelka also stood his ground directly after the incident, saying, "I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic," per an alternate BBC Sport report.
He has since been charged with a gesture that is said to be "abusive or indecent or insulting or improper," by The FA, as reported by The Guardian.
The former Arsenal, Real Madrid and Liverpool striker has until 6 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET on Jan. 23 to officially lodge an appeal, but it seems likely he will miss at least five matches for Pepe Mel's club.
Anelka's likely suspension comes at a difficult time for West Brom. The club recently hired Mel, who replaced the outgoing Steve Clarke, but they have just one win in their last 12 Premier League games, as recorded by WhoScored.com.
With 12 appearances to his name this season, the first of Anelka's two goals was the one to throw up this controversy.
To make matters worse, Anelka's actions cost the club their current sponsorship with Zoopla. The property website confirmed it will end its association in the aftermath of this situation, per Sky Sports.
Anelka is said to have been supporting controversial French pal Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala with the gesture, after the comedian's shows were banned in France, according to Sam Wallace of The Independent.
I don't think he should be banned, he was just supporting a comedian in France. We don't have to make such a big deal about it. I hope he doesn't get suspended because he is a player people want to play on the pitch.
The video has since been removed from Everton's website. Alan Myers, director of communications at the club, said Lukaku's thoughts do not represent "the opinion held by the football club."
Anelka obviously feels aggrieved and is working hard to prove his innocence. His case sets something of a precedent for the Premier League's new anti-racism measures—introduced in May 2013, per Richard Conway of BBC Sport—which sees any player convicted of racist abuse banned for a minimum of five games.
Determining whether the celebration was racist will decide the striker's fate, but as Anelka prepares to learn the full extent of his punishment, he took time to thank West Brom supporters on Twitter:
Big thanks to @WBAFCofficial for the support on this story & also to the West Bromwich fans who were magnificent tonight— nicolas anelka (@anelkaofficiel) January 21, 2014
This story is set to continue developing at a fast rate, something that will perhaps be accelerated by Anelka's recent retort.