West Brom frontman Anelka is facing a minimum five-match ban, unless he can prove his case, after being charged by the FA with performing an alleged anti-Semitic gesture during his club’s match against West Ham on December 28. The striker insists he is neither anti-Semitic nor racist and believed he had the backing of a Jewish community leader in the battle to clear his name.
However, Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France), who initially appeared to have sided with the 34-year-old footballer, later said he considered Anelka’s behaviour “clearly suspect”.
Anelka has until 6pm today to formally respond to the FA charge.
The quenelle has been described as an inverted Nazi salute and was created by French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, who has been prosecuted for anti-Semitism. Anelka is a friend of Dieudonné’s and he insisted his salute was a gesture of support aimed at the French establishment.
Cukierman said in an interview with Le Figaro that the quenelle could not be regarded as anti-Semitic in the context it was performed in. That prompted Anelka to write in a statement on his Facebook page: “I therefore ask the English FA to kindly remove the charge made against me. And I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist.”
In the video, Cukierman said of the action facing Anelka: “It seems a bit severe to me because it seems to me that this gesture only has an anti-Semitic connotation if the gesture is made in front of a synagogue or a memorial to the Holocaust.
“When it’s made in a place which is not specifically Jewish it seems to me that it’s a slightly anarchic gesture of revolt against the establishment, which doesn’t deserve severe sanctions.”
But Cukierman clarified his position in a later interview, telling 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.”
The FA appointed an academic expert to advise on the case before it brought the charge, but Anelka wrote: “It would have been more legitimate for this expert to be French, living in France, who would have an accurate knowledge of my actions. What better expert than Mr Cukierman, president of CRIF, who explains very clearly that my quenelle could not be regarded as anti-Semitic!”
Another two of West Brom’s key sponsors are considering withdrawing their backing over the saga after shirt sponsor Zoopla, a property search engine co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, announced it would not be renewing its €3.6m contract at the end of the season.
Jack Wolfskin and Holler watches have confirmed they may follow Zoopla’s example. Kit supplier adidas, though, will not be adopting such a stance, insisting it is behind the club.