LONDON: West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka is at risk of a minimum five-match ban after being charged by the Football Association over his quenelle gesture.
The terms of the charge of an abusive gesture describe it as aggravated by a breach of rules concerning ethnic origins – a clear reference to the perception that the gesture is anti-Semitic.
The French striker has until 6pm to appeal or accept the charge over the manner of his goal-scoring celebration against West Ham last month.
Anelka is the first player charged by the FA under guidelines to combat racial discrimination brought in after the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra incident. He could receive a ban similar to Suarez’s eight games after the Liverpool striker was found guilty of using racially abusive language towards Manchester United’s French defender Evra in 2011.
The quenelle is similar to a Nazi salute with the arm pointing downward. Placing fingers on the opposite shoulder has also been described as a lesser-known Nazi salute.
Anelka denied he was being anti-Semitic or racist by celebrating with the quenelle which, he claimed, he did in support of his friend Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, an anti-establishment comedian. But the 34-year-old did promise not to repeat the gesture.
The charge followed property company Zoopla’s decision not to renew its £3m sponsorship of the club after its expiry at the season’s end. The company had threatened to drop its sponsorship if Anelka was picked for last night’s match. The club rejected outside influence on team selection by new manager Pepe Mel.
Anelka was given a standing ovation by the crowd when he was substituted after 76 minutes. Mel said he had not considered dropping the striker, adding: “We needed to win. Nicolas is a very good player, a very good professional and I am only the head coach.
“If he is suspended I will not be able to play him, but all we can think of is football matches. I spoke to him yesterday and asked if he was ready to play. He said he was and it is my obligation to West Bromwich to pick the best team.”
A statement from the property company read: “Zoopla have been reviewing their position over the past few weeks in light of the actions of striker Nicolas Anelka during the match against West Ham over the Christmas period and have decided to focus their attention on other marketing activities after this season.”
** Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has been suspended for three games after having been sent off in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Chelsea.