West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka has declared his intention to fight against the Football Association charge for his “quenelle” gesture.
Anelka, 34, has until Thursday to officially respond to the charge that follows his goal celebration in the match against West Ham United on Dec. 28.
The “quenelle” has been described as anti-Semitic and Anelka faces a minimum five-match ban if found guilty of making “a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper.” The FA further alleges that it is an “aggravated breach” of its laws in that the gesture “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
The FA arrived at its decision to charge the former France international after appointing an expert and conducting a lengthy investigation, but Anelka -- who has maintained that his gesture was purely anti-establishment and had no religious intent -- has taken to Facebook to announce that he does not accept the charge.
He wrote: “The English Football Association has hired an expert to decide the meaning of my ‘quenelle,’ who concluded that my gesture had an anti-Semitic connotation, which led to my charge by the FA.
“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, president of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France), who explains very clearly that my ‘quenelle’ could not be regarded as anti-Semitic!
“He also explained precisely and at which time the gesture could have such a connotation.
“I therefore ask the English federation to kindly remove the charges it has levelled against me. And I repeat: I am neither an anti-Semite nor a racist.”
Anelka had earlier posted a video on Cukierman’s views on his Twitter feed with a message reading: "Nothing to add."
Cukierman had told Le Figaro: “It seems a bit severe to me because it seems to me that this gesture only has an anti-Semitic connation if the gesture is made in front of a synagogue or a memorial to the Holocaust.
“When it's made in a place which is not specifically Jewish it seems to me that it's a slightly anarchic gesture of revolt against the establishment, which doesn't deserve severe sanctions.”
Anelka’s comments come as the club faces the prospect of further sponsors cancelling their agreements with the club.
Zoopla has made confirmed it will not renew shirt sponsorship contract, worth three million pounds a year, when it expires at the end of the season, and Holler Watches, which is sponsoring the club until the end of this season, has also said it is reviewing its arrangement, according to Marketing Week.
Jack Wolfskin, meanwhile, has said it could end its two-year agreement with West Brom after just nine months.
The German clothing company told the publication: "We consider the charges as serious and strongly disapprove of any gestures or statements which are meant to discriminate a single person or a certain group of people. We are now awaiting the judgment from the FA before taking further steps.
"Depending on West Brom’s [response to the ruling] and considering our legal possibilities, we would also consider ending our sponsorship as one option.”
West Brom shirt supplier Adidas, which has a five-year contract with the club, added in Marketing Week: “Adidas is wholly opposed to extremism of any kind but this is a matter for the club. We are fully supportive of West Bromwich Albion and look forward to continuing our partnership.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report