The French soccer player who celebrated a goal for his team by invoking the "quenelle" gesture, a salute widely perceived as anti-Semitic, was charged Tuesday by England's Football Association.
Striker Nicolas Anelka has until 6 P.M. GMT (1 P.M. EST) on January 23 to respond 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.
Anelka faces a stint on the sidelines if found guilty: New anti-racism rules introduced this season stipulate that any player convicted of racist or religious discrimination be banned for at least five games.
The Football Association has come under increasing pressure to penalize Anelka for the "quenelle," according to the Telegraph, which reported that the soccer body has taken more than three weeks to reach a decision, following an investigation.
The decision comes less than 24 hours after Zoopla, a sponsor of Anelka's English Premier League soccer team, West Bromwich Albion, said it would end its 3 million pound (almost $5 million) sponsorship deal with the team over the affair.
Zoopla is coowned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, who was reportedly displeased with the gesture.
"Zoopla has been reviewing its position over the past few weeks in light of the actions of striker Nicolas Anelka during the match against West Ham over the Christmas period and has decided to focus its attention on other marketing activities after this season," the company said in a statement.
Anelka has maintained he is not anti-Semitic, insisting that the "quenelle," often referred to as "inverted Nazi salute," is an anti-establishment gesture.
However, Jewish groups disagreed with that claim as have politicians, including French Sport Minister Valerie Fourneyron, who called Anelka's action "disgusting."
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