By Mike Collett
LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Nicolas Anelka used his Facebook and Twitter accounts to ask the English FA to drop charges against him for his quenelle salute and again denied he was anti-Semitic or racist.
The West Bromwich Albion striker has until 1800 GMT on Thursday to respond to the charge that he made an improper gesture. The FA could ban him for a minimum of five matches, or even more.
The 34-year-old former France international maintains the gesture he made after scoring the first of his two goals in West Brom's 3-3 draw at West Ham on Dec. 28 was not anti-Semitic, but instead a tribute to his French comedian friend Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala who invented it.
He wants to call a witness who is an expert in French language and culture who is living in France to put his gesture in context for the FA.
"It would be legitimate that this expert be French, living in France, so he could have an exact knowledge of my gesture," he wrote.
He has used both his social media outlets to defend himself and has a link to a video clip on the Le Figaro website that shows an interview with Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF, the council representing Jewish institutions in France, saying he did not think Anelka's action was anti-Semitic.
Cukierman said: "It seems a bit severe to me because it seems that this gesture only has an anti-Semitic connation if it 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."
Many other groups however, take a much harsher view calling for Anelka to be banned for longer than just five matches.
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told British media: "I know under the rules that on a first-time offence there is a minimum five-game suspension.
"But I think 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. He has simply said he wouldn't do it again and that is not good enough."
The quenelle has been described as an inverted Nazi salute created by Dieudonne, a friend of Anelka's.
On Jan 11, Dieudonne announced that he was dropping his show "The Wall" banned for its anti-Semitic language and was planning another one that would cause no objections.
The FA charged the former France international under Rule E3 for "making an abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper gesture".
"It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3 in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief," the FA said in a statement.
West Brom said the player had received a 34-page document explaining the allegations against him.
"Under FA rules Anelka remains available for first-team selection until the FA's disciplinary process has reached its conclusion.
"Following this the club will conclude its own internal enquiry," Albion said in a statement on Tuesday.
Whether the FA find him guilty or not, the gesture has already had repercussions.
Zoopla, a property market search engine co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, announced on Monday they would not be renewing their three million pounds ($4.93 million) Albion shirt sponsorship at the end of the season.
Anelka's gesture initially went unnoticed in England but the game was being shown live in his homeland and the gesture was not lost on French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron.
"Anelka's gesture is a shocking provocation, disgusting," she said on Twitter. "There's no place for anti-Semitism on the football field."
The former Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Paris St Germain striker has tried to play down the incident.
"This gesture was a special dedication to my friend Dieudonne," Anelka said on Twitter earlier.
($1 = 0.6090 British pounds) (Additional reporting by Julien Pretor in Paris; editing by Martyn Herman)
- Sports & Recreation
- Nicolas Anelka
- West Bromwich Albion