Nicolas Anelka must formally respond to the Football Association by 6pm on Thursday over its charge for his ’quenelle’ goal celebration – but prospects of him citing a prominent member of the French Jewish community in his defence have suffered a setback.
West Brom striker 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 after scoring against West Ham on December 28.
The striker is set to contest the charge – he 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, later said he considered Anelka’s behaviour “clearly suspect”.
The quenelle has been described as an inverted Nazi salute and was created by French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who has been prosecuted for anti-Semitism. Anelka is a friend of Dieudonne’s and the player has insisted his salute was a gesture aimed at the French establishment.
Cukierman said in a video 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 the gesture only had anti-Semitic connotations if made in front of a synagogue or a memorial to the Holocaust.
He added: “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 Dieudonne is anti-Semitic and the sympathy of Nicolas Anelka (for Dieudonne) is clearly suspect.
“I have no desire to be an expert in this matter.”
The FA will appoint a three-man independent regulatory commission to hear the case.
Meanwhile, another two of West Brom’s key sponsors, Jack Wolfskin and Holler watches, are considering withdrawing their backing from the club over the saga after primary shirt sponsor Zoopla, a property search engine, announced it would not be renewing its £3million contract at the end of the season.