West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka faces a lengthy ban after being charged by England’s Football Association (FA) yesterday over an allegedly anti-Semitic salute.
The 34-year-old French striker performed the quenelle salute, putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other, during West Brom’s 3-3 draw at West Ham United in the Premier League last month.
“The FA has charged the West Bromwich Albion player Nicolas Anelka following an incident that occurred during the West Ham United versus West Bromwich Albion fixture at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December 2013,” a statement on the association’s Web site read.
It added that Anelka had made a gesture that was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper,” and included “a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
Anelka has until 6pm London time tomorrow to respond and if found guilty, faces a minimum five-game suspension under anti-discrimination measures the association introduced in May last year.
If Anelka is banned, Albion could find themselves without two forwards, following Friday’s transfer of Shane Long to Premier League rivals Hull City, and with little time to bring in a replacement before this month’s transfer window shuts.
An independent three-person commission will be appointed to deal with the case, which will be decided by a disciplinary hearing if Anelka contests the charge.
The association revealed earlier this month that it was working with “an appointed expert” to investigate the matter.
The quenelle, popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, has been described by critics in France as an inverted Nazi salute, but Anelka has said that it was merely “a dedication” to the comic.
M’bala M’bala, better known as Dieudonne, said the gesture is anti-establishment, not anti-Semitic.
The FA’s decision to charge Anelka after a three-and-a-half-week investigation comes a day after West Brom’s shirt sponsors, property Web site Zoopla, decided to end their association with the club.
“In recent weeks we have decided to re-evaluate this sponsorship and as a result we will focus our attention on other marketing activities from the end of the season,” Zoopla head of communications Lawrence Hall said.
However, West Brom tried to downplay the impact of Zoopla’s move by saying they had long been preparing to seek another sponsor.
British media reports suggested that Zoopla had called on West Brom to drop Anelka over the affair.
The former France international has continued to appear for the club despite the furore and played for 77 minutes in his side’s 1-1 draw with Everton on Monday.
The match saw Diego Lugano score his first goal for West Brom to salvage the draw in new manager Pepe Mel’s first Premier League game in charge.
The Uruguay international’s 75th-minute header prevented a misfiring Everton side from going back into the top four after Kevin Mirallas had given the visitors a first-half lead.
Everton had a goal correctly disallowed for offside with the last kick of the game, leaving them in sixth place, a point behind Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Speaking after the game, Mel said he had no qualms about continuing to select Anelka.
“I don’t know. I am only head coach,” Mel told Sky Sports when asked about the affair. “He is a good personality. He needs a goal and he will work for me very well.”