West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka has been charged after making an allegedly anti-Semitic salute during a recent English Premier League match, the Football Association announced on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old French striker performed the ‘quenelle’ salute, putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other last month during West Brom’s 3-3 draw at West Ham United.
“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,” read a statement published on the FA website.
“It is alleged that, in the 40th minute of the fixture, Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3.
“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.”
Anelka has until Thursday evening (Friday morning AEDT) to respond to the charge.
If found guilty, he faces a minimum five-game suspension under new anti-discrimination measures introduced last May by the FA.
The ‘quenelle’, popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, has been described by critics in France as an inverted Nazi salute, but Anelka has insisted it was merely “a dedication” to the comic.
M’bala M’bala, better known simply as Dieudonne, says the gesture is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic.
The FA’s decision to charge Anelka, after a three-and-a-half-week investigation, came a day after West Brom’s shirt sponsors, property website Zoopla, decided to end its association with the club.
British media reports suggested the company had called on West Brom to drop Anelka over the affair.
The former French international has continued to appear for the club despite the furore and played for 77 minutes on Monday in his side’s 1-1 draw with Everton.