French soccer player calls on British association to drop 'quenelle' charges
Nicolas Anelka posts on Facebook that he is neither 'anti-Semitic nor racist.'
The French soccer player who has been criticized for using what critics describe as an inverted Nazi salute insisted Wednesday he is not anti-Semitic and called for England's Football Association to drop its charges over the "quenelle" gesture Wednesday.
The statement, made in French on striker Nicolas Anelka's Facebook page, came a day after the Football Association determined that he could face a stint on the sidelines for making the gesture.
"I am neither anti-Semitic nor racist," the message reads, according to the Guardian.
Anelka said the gesture he used during a game should not be interpreted as anti-Semitic because he did not make the gesture outside a Jewish facility.
Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF, the umbrella organization for French Jewry, has said the quenelle is anti-Semitic only if performed in front of a synagogue or other Jewish institution. Anelka tweeted a link to a report of Cukierman's comments earlier this week.
"That gesture can only have an anti-Semitic connotation when performed at a synagogue or a memorial to Holocaust victims," the BBC quoted Cukierman as telling French daily Le Figaro. "In a place that has no significance for Jews, it is merely an anti-establishment gesture which I feel does not warrant any harsh sanction."
Anelka said that especially in light of Cukierman's stated views, the Football Association decision was illegitimate.
"The English football federation hired an expert to rule on the meaning of my quenelle," Anelka wrote, according to the Guardian translation. "The latter concluded that my gesture had an anti-Semitic connotation, which led to my indictment by the F.A."
"It would have been legitimatehad the expert been French, living in France, and that could have an exact knowledge of my gesture," he wrote. "What better expert than Mr. Cukierman, president of CRIF, which explains it very clearly that my quenelle could not be considered to be anti-Semitic!"
Anelka has until 6 P.M. GMT (1 P.M. EST) on Thursday to issue an official response to the charge, which the Football Association says relates to an "abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper" gesture that "included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief," according to Goal.com.
New anti-racism rules introduced this season stipulate that any player convicted of racist or religious discrimination be banned for at least five games.
Anelka has maintained the quenelle is an anti-establishment gesture. However, some Jewish groups disagreed with that claim, as have politicians, including French Sport Minister Valerie Fourneyron, who called Anelka's action "disgusting."