Anelka: Charges should be dropped
Nicolas Anelka has called on the Football Association to drop its charge against him over his 'quenelle' goal celebration - but prospects of him citing a prominent French Jew in his defence were set back on Wednesday.
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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 on Thursday to formally respond to the FA charge.
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 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."
39. Nicolas Anelka
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 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!
"He also explained precisely and when the gesture could have such a connotation."
Other pressure groups have called for Anelka to be handed more than a five-game suspension due to his lack of an apology.
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "What he did was sufficiently serious to justify a longer suspension than five matches. He has not indicated one bit of remorse or regret or apologised for his actions."
Anelka was charged by the FA with making an improper gesture, an aggravated breach in that it included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief".
Another two of West Brom's key sponsors are considering withdrawing their backing from the club over the saga after primary shirt sponsor Zoopla, a property search engine co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, announced it would not be renewing its £3million contract at the end of the season.
Sponsors Jack Wolfskin and Holler watches have confirmed they may follow the example taken by Zoopla.
A statement issued by Jack Wolfskin read: "Jack Wolfskin is following the developments closely, but has not taken a decision yet.
"We consider the charges as serious and strongly disapprove of any gestures or statements which are meant to discriminate a single person, or a certain group of people.
"We are now awaiting the judgment of the Football Association before taking further steps.
"Depending on what our partner West Brom says, which measures they take and considering our legal possibilities, we would consider ending our sponsorship as one option."
In its own statement, Holler said: "We will be reviewing the situation with regards to whether we extend that after this season."
Kit supplier adidas will not be adopting such a stance, insisting it is firmly behind the club.
A spokesperson for adidas told Press Association Sport: "This is a disciplinary matter for the club and we remain fully supportive of West Bromwich Albion in handling this matter in conjunction with the FA."