The Football Association doesn’t think Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite, but that isn’t stopping them from imposing his five-game ban and fining him about $48,000.
His club, West Bromwich Albion, is also suspending the striker for December’s ‘quenelle’ goal celebration. Anelka called it a salute to his friend, the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, despite the fact that the gesture carries anti-Semitic connotations as an “inverted Nazi salute.”
Anelka has fought the charges at every turn since unleashing the celebration in a 3-1 December win over West Ham. He risked having the suspension doubled when he denied the FA’s charge, but will face only the original five-match ban.
The commission said in a statement on the FA website that the two charges Anelka faced – that the gesture was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, and that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief – were both proven.
The commission statement said: “So far as the basis for our finding on Charge 2 is concerned, 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.”
There’s no silver lining in the case for West Brom, who has lost sponsors and credibility due to their handling of the incident. They released a statement on Thursday with some very interesting verbage. Among the notes:
The Club acknowledges that the FA panel ‘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’. However, the Club cannot ignore the offence that his actions have caused, particularly to the Jewish community, nor the potential damage to the Club’s reputation.
So this could very well be the end of Anelka at West Brom and in England (as well as his career, which was naturally coming to a close as well). Shockingly, Anelka can still appeal this ruling, which is mind-blowing, in a sense. He hasn’t played since Jan. 29.