London: West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka was banned for five games by the English Football Association on Thursday after being found guilty of causing racial offence with a goal celebration during a Premier League match.
But the FA disciplinary panel backed Anelka’s insistence that he was not promoting anti-Semitism by performing the gesture, which is known in France as a “quenelle” and has been described as an “inverted Nazi salute.”
“The misconduct was an ‘aggravated breach’ … in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief,” the FA commission said.
“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 verdict added.
But the commission, which heard the case this week, decided the former France international should receive the minimum five-game ban for racism offences. He was also fined 80,000 pounds ($133,000) and ordered to complete an education course.
The sanction won’t take effect until Anelka decides whether to appeal within seven days of receiving the commission’s written reasons.
Anelka performed the “quenelle” as he celebrated scoring in West Brom’s 3-3 draw with West Ham on Dec. 28.
The gesture involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching the shoulder with the opposite hand. It was popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who has been convicted multiple times for inciting racial hatred or anti-Semitism.