NICOLAS ANELKA has called on the Football Association to drop its charge against him over his 'quenelle' goal celebration – but prospects of him citing a prominent French Jew in his defence were set back yesterday.
The striker insists he is neither anti-Semitic nor racist and believed he had the backing of a Jewish community leader in the battle to clear his name.
However Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France), who initially appeared to have sided with the 34-year-old footballer, later said he considered Anelka's behaviour "clearly suspect".
The quenelle has been described as an inverted Nazi salute and was created by French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has been prosecuted for anti-Semitism. Anelka is a friend of Dieudonne's and the player has insisted his salute was a gesture of support aimed at the French establishment.
Cukierman said in an interview with Le Figaro that the quenelle could not be regarded as anti-Semitic in the context it was performed in.
That prompted Anelka to write in a statement on his Facebook page: "I therefore ask the English FA to kindly remove the charge made against me. And I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist."
In the video, Cukierman said of the action facing Anelka: "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."
But Cukierman clarified his position in a later interview, saying: "The gesture conceived and realised by Dieudonne is anti-Semitic and the sympathy of Nicolas Anelka (for Dieudonne) is clearly suspect.
"I have no desire to be an expert in this matter."
The FA appointed an academic expert to advise on the case before it brought the charge, but Anelka wrote: "It would have been more legitimate for this expert to be French, living in France, who would have an accurate knowledge of my actions. What better expert than Mr Cukierman."