EPL player handed five-game ban and fined for gesture by English FA
Anelka denied charges that gesture he made was "abusive, indecent or insulting"
FA Regulatory Commission "did not find Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite"
"Quenelle" popularized by controversial French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala
French soccer star Nicolas Anelka has been given a five-match ban and fined £80,000 ($130,000) by the English Football Association (FA) for making a “quenelle” gesture in a game last year.
The West Bromwich Albion striker was charged by the FA on January 21 after making the gesture in an English Premier League match against West Ham United on December 28.
The “quenelle” which involves pointing a straightened arm downwards while touching the shoulder of that arm with the other hand, is believed by some to be a Nazi salute in reverse and has been linked with anti-Semitism in Anelka’s homeland.
An Independent Regulatory Commission was asked to consider if the gesture was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper,” and “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
Both charges were proved, said the commission, but it added it did not believe Anelka to be a racist.
“We did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle,” the Regulatory Commission said in a statement.
In addition to the ban and fine, Anelka has been ordered to undertake a “compulsory education course,” the FA said.
The 34-year-old, who denied the charges and asked for a personal hearing, commented on Twitter after the match that the gesture was “a dedication” to the French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala before adding: “I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic.”
Known as Dieudonne, he has popularized the “quenelle” gesture in France and faces investigation by the Paris prosecutor’s office for his controversial stand-up routine.
During a performance, he said of a prominent Jewish journalist: “Me, you see, when I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I think to myself: ‘Gas chambers … too bad (they no longer exist).”
Anelka has seven days to appeal the decision.
The Independent Regulatory Commission stated it will reveal how it arrived at its decision “in due course.”
Read more: Anti-Semitism row shines light on fractured French society