English soccer’s ruling body charged West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka over an alleged anti-Semitic gesture he made during a game.
The Football Association said Anelka is accused of making “a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper.” It’s also alleged to have been an “aggravated” breach of the rules as it had ethnic, racial or religious connotations. The player, who has until Jan. 23 to answer the charge, could be banned for at least five games.
Anelka, a 34-year-old Frenchman, made the “quenelle” sign when he celebrated a goal against West Ham on Dec. 28. The gesture, which involves pointing one arm down and straight, with the other held across the chest, has been described by its critics as an inverted Nazi salute. It’s been widely used by French comic Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who’s been convicted in France for anti-Semitic behavior.
Anelka denied intending the gesture as anti-Semitic, saying it was an anti-establishment action that was a “special dedication” to his friend Dieudonne, as he’s known. He said he would not repeat it.
Chantal Jouanno, a former French sports minister, has described the “quenelle” as a Nazi gesture that’s clearly anti-Semitic. The European Jewish Congress has condemned Anelka’s behavior and called for him to be punished.
Yesterday U.K. property website Zoopla said it will end its sponsorship of Premier League club West Brom at the end of this season because of Anelka’s behavior. Zoopla is part-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman.
Last year the 150-year-old F.A. introduced new rules for discriminatory behavior, setting a minimum five-match ban for such offenses. The review followed race-linked incidents involving Chelsea’s John Terry and Luis Suarez of Liverpool.
Former England captain Terry was fined and suspended for four matches last season for using racist language toward Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a league game in 2011. Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Suarez, the Premier League’s top scorer this season, served an eight-game ban in the 2011-12 campaign after racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
Anelka has played for teams including Arsenal, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, as well as the French national team. He won English league titles with Arsenal and Chelsea and the Champions League with Real Madrid.
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