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Nicolas Anelka Slams FA Charge, Says 'Quenelle' Gesture Wasn't Anti-Semitic

French striker Nicolas Anelka of Shanghai Shenhua warms up before a training soccer match against Nanchang Hengyuan in Shanghai, China, Saturday Feb. 25, 2012. Anelka joined Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua in January on a transfer from Chelsea. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Eugene Hoshiko
Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

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:

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Nicolas Anelka of West Brom on the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at Boleyn Ground on December 28, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Image
Warren Little/Getty Images

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Nicolas Anelka of West Bromwich looks on from the sidelines during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion on December 26 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

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.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  Everton forward Romelu Lukaku raises a smile during the Barclays premier league match between West Bromwich Albion and Everton at The Hawthorns on January 20, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Get
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku, Anelka's former colleague at Chelsea, joined Cukierman in defence of the 34-year-old during a video interview with EvertonTV. Per BBC Sport:

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.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  West Brom player Nicolas Anelka (r) in action infront of a Zoopla sign during the Barclays premier league match between West Bromwich Albion and Everton at The Hawthorns on January 20, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.
Stu Forster/Getty Images

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:

This story is set to continue developing at a fast rate, something that will perhaps be accelerated by Anelka's recent retort. 

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