West Bromwich Albion’s controversial French striker, Nicolas Anelka, who was charged by the UK Football Association on Tuesday, defended his use of the offensive quenelle salute, again, on Wednesday, Press Association Sport reported.
Initially Anelka said that the gesture he made after scoring a goal on December 28 was not anti-Semitic, as condemned by many, but actually anti-establishment. He said his use of the salute was a tribute to his friend, French anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.
In a post on his Twitter feed on Wednesday, Anelka wrote “Rien a ajouter,” meaning, “Nothing to add,” while linking to a 40-second clip from the Le Figaro newspaper of an interview with Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the council representing French Jewish institutions.
In the clip, Cukierman said: “It seems a bit severe to me because it seems to me that this gesture only has an anti-Semitic connotation if the gesture 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.”
Meanwhile, other groups have called for Anelka to be handed more than a five-game suspension due to his lack of an apology.
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told Press Association Sport: “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 apologized for his actions. He has simply said he wouldn’t do it again and that is not good enough.”
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, which advises the Jewish community on security and anti-Semitism, said the FA should take action: “Anelka has introduced a very ugly phenomenon into British football. Anelka’s action risks the quenelle being taken up by actual anti-Semites and used against British Jews: as it has been in France and elsewhere. The FA should throw the book at him.”
On Monday, property website Zoopla pulled its sponsorship from the team for next season after insisting that if Anelka play, he do so without their logo on his shirt. Zoopla was angry because of the negative publicity surrounding Anelka since making the quenelle salute. Zoopla is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, who had first asked the team to consider benching Anelka due to the salute and his refusal to apologize.