West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka has called on the Football Association to drop the racism charge after the leader of France’s Jews claimed his goal-celebration gesture was not anti-Semitic.
The FA has decided that Anelka will face a charge for using the gesture, which is known in France as a “quenelle” and has been described as an “inverted Nazi salute,” for a racially aggravated breach of its rules.
But the Frenchman insists the FA wrongly interpreted the meaning of the quenelle.
“I ask the English FA to kindly lift the charges alleged against me,” Anelka wrote on his Facebook page. “And I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist.”
Anelka noted how Roger Cukierman, the president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, was believes the FA were wrong to charge him.
On Tuesday, Anelka tweeted “nothing to add” with a link to a French interview with Cukierman insisting the striker’s actions were not anti-Semitic because they were not in front of a synagogue or a Holocaust memorial.
Anelka said the FA should have consulted Cukierman.
“The English FA engaged an expert to give a ruling on the meaning of my quenelle,” Anelka wrote on Facebook. “This person concluded that my gesture had an anti-Semitic connotation, which led to me being charged by the FA. It would have been right if this expert was French, living in France and able to have an exact understanding of my gesture.
“What better expert than Mr. Cukierman … who explained very clearly that my quenelle could not be considered as anti-Semitic. What’s more, he has explained precisely and at which moment this gesture could have such a connotation.”
Anelka has until Thursday to formally respond to the FA charge. A three-person FA independent regulatory commission will deal with the case.
English football’s latest race row has already caused West Brom’s main sponsor, property website Zoopla, to not renew its shirt sponsorship deal when it expires at the end of the season.
Another two sponsors of the central England club are considering withdrawing their backing. Much may be riding on the outcome of the FA case.
Ultimately, this looks to be a case of interpretation: either Anelka is an idiot who had no idea his gesture might cause offence or, he is an idiot who is also anti-semitic.