French Soccer Star Anelka Banned, Fined for 'Quenelle' Salute

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French footballer Nicolas Anelka has been banned for five matches and fined £80,000 (just over $133,000) for making the "quenelle" gesture, which is considered to be anti-Semitic.

The English Football association had charged Anelka, 34, with an aggravated offence after making a gesture that was judged to be "abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper." The aggravated breach was that it included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."

Anelka made the so-called "quenelle" sign after scoring a goal for his team West Bromwich Albion in a match against West Ham last December. The gesture has been described as a "reverse Nazi salute."

Anelka argued that the gesture is not anti-semitic but anti-establishment. However, after months of investigation and careful deliberation, the FA decided that there was a discriminatory element to the sign and have banned the player accordingly.

Anelka has the right to appeal, and has also been ordered to attend a course.

The FA's decision to charge Anelka caused controversy, with some in France claiming the gesture is not anti-Semitic, even though it has been widely associated with anti-Jewish sentiment.

Conversely, the length of time taken by the FA to charge and suspend the player was also criticised, highlighting the sensitivity of the incident.

The 'quenelle' was popularized by Dieudonne Mbala Mbala, a French comedian who is friends with Anelka, Dieudonne been repeatedly convicted of making anti-Semitic statements, and has been banned from performing in France.

The FA has been making a strong stand against racism in recent years, following high-profile incidents involving footballers Luis Suarez, and latterly John Terry. While those players were found guilty of making racial references towards black people, this is the first time a black footballer has been found guilty of a racial offence in England.

West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas AnelkaCredit: AFP

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