Anelka 'gobsmacked' by row over controversial gesture
WEST HAM 3 WEST BROM 3
WEST BROM'S Nicolas Anelka was slowly coming to terms yesterday with the row he provoked by his gesture in support of a controversial French comedian after scoring at Upton Park.
Anelka was "gobsmacked" by the fallout, which included the European Jewish Congress calling for him to be banned for a gesture widely considered to be anti-Semitic. The Frenchman sought to clarify his celebration, declaring on Twitter: "Of course, I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic. The meaning of 'quenelle' is anti-system. I do not know what religion has to do with this."
The English FA, plunged into the deep waters of religion and politics, will not rush into a decision on whether he should be charged.
"It will not be fast-tracked, we have to understand the context," a spokesman said. "We have rules about discriminatory language and offensive gestures and, if it was discriminatory, we'd have a position on that. But it's not likely to be resolved within a few days."
The governing body has grown more sensitive to issues regarding race and religion, and only recently set up a new Inclusion Advisory Board, which will meet for the first time next month. One of its aims is to "clarify anti-discrimination regulations and sanctions".
Anelka is a good friend of the stand-up comedian known as Dieudonné, who has been convicted in the past of anti-Semitic remarks and has been pictured with the Albion player as well as Manchester City's Samir Nasri, both players making the quenelle gesture.
Liverpool's Mamadou Sakho (right), a Muslim like Nasri and Anelka, has been pictured making the same salute, but claimed he did not know the meaning of it and had been "tricked".
It has been described as a combination of a reverse Nazi gesture and an obscene one.
The European Jewish Congress president, Moshe Kantor, said: "This salute is merely a lesser-known Nazi salute and we expect the same kind of punishment to be handed down by the authorities as if Anelka had made the infamous outstretched arm salute."
Anelka said on Twitter that he was merely dedicating his first goal in the six-goal thriller to "my comedian friend, Dieudonné".
The incident was played down by Albion officials, including caretaker manager Keith Downing. Downing preferred to emphasise that he had found him "a good role model, (who) has conducted himself around the place properly".
There was praise too from Saido Berahino, the young striker who scored Albion's other goal and said of Anelka: "He is a quiet guy, gets on with what he gets told to do and people look up to him because he leads by example, not just on the field but off the pitch he looks after himself. He is really humble."
West Ham, meanwhile, expect Andy Carroll to be playing within "two to three weeks" while the player posted a cryptic tweet saying "The time is near..." (© Independent News Service)