Nicolas Anelka calls for FA charges to be dropped
‘Kindly remove the charge made against me ... I am not anti-semitic or racist’
French striker Nicolas Anelka has been charged by the Football Association over his controversial ‘quenelle’ goal celebration. Photograph: Stephen Pond/PA Wire
Nicolas Anelka has given a clear indication that he intends to fight his Football Association charge for the quenelle gesture he made after scoring for West Bromwich Albion by asking the governing body to drop the action against him.
The French striker posted a message on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon that repeated his contention he was not anti-semitic, despite the quenelle being interpreted, in various quarters, as being such.
Anelka performed the gesture after his first goal at West Ham United on December 28th and said he was supporting his friend,the French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who brought the quenelle to prominence. It has been described as an inverted Nazi salute but Anelka follows the alternative reading of it as simply anti-establishment.
He made clear on Facebook he was unhappy at how the FA had arrived at the decision to charge him with making an improper gesture, aggravated by a reference to ethnic origin, race or religion and which, if proven, would lead to a ban of at least five matches, and probably nearer 10. Anelka complained that the governing body’s expert, who sought to decode the quenelle, lacked the required awareness and knowledge of it because he was not French and did not live in France.
Anelka also highlighted the opinion of Roger Cukierman, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, who had said Anelka’s gesture was not anti-semitic because it had not been performed in front of a synagogue or a memorial to the Holocaust. Cukierman said: “When it is made in a place which is not specifically Jewish, it seems to be me that it’s a slightly anarchic gesture of revolt against the establishment, which doesn’t deserve severe sanctions.”
Anelka wrote: “The English Football Federation hired an expert to rule on the meaning of my quenelle … The latter concluded that my gesture had an anti-semitic connotation, which led to my indictment by the FA. It would have been legitimate had the expert been French, living in France, and could have an exact knowledge of my gesture.
“What better expert than Mr Cukierman, president of CRIF, who explains very clearly that my quenelle could not be considered to be anti-semitic! He also explained in detail when this gesture could have such a connotation. I therefore ask the English Federation to kindly remove the charges of which I’m accused. And I repeat, I am neither anti-semitic nor racist.”
But Cukiermanclarified his position in a later interview, telling the Paris-based radio station RMC: “The gesture conceived and realised by Dieudonné is anti-semitic and the sympathy of Nicolas Anelka (for Dieudonné) is clearly suspect. I have no desire to be an expert in this matter.”
Anelka’s Facebook posting did not constitute an official response to the FA charge; the governing body is yet to hear from him. He has until 6pm on Thursday to indicate whether he intends to accept or contest the charge but, given his Facebook comments, it seems clear which course he intends to take.
Anelka would be within his rights to request an extension to the FA’s deadline, given the complexity of the case that has been brought against him. He received a 34-page dossier from them detailing every aspect of the case only on Monday. Whatever Anelka’s plea, the FA will set up an independent commission, chaired by a QC, to arbitrate.
West Brom’s sponsor, Zoopla, has said that it will not renew its deal when it expires at the end of the season because of the Anelka controversy and two of the club’s other commercial partners are now considering their options.