Martinez: Anelka backing a mistake
Romelu Lukaku’s decision to speak out in support of Nicolas Anelka’s quenelle gesture was “a misunderstanding,” according to Everton manager Roberto Martinez.
Lukaku, at Goodison Park on a season’s loan from Chelsea, said in an interview this week that the West Brom forward should not be banned for the gesture, which has been described as anti-Semitic by Jewish organisations.
Anelka was charged by the Football Association on Tuesday with making an “abusive” gesture in celebrating a goal during Albion’s 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham on Dec. 28. The former France international has denied the charge and faces a minimum five-match ban if found guilty.
Lukaku, 20, spoke in support of Anelka in an interview filmed shortly after Everton’s 1-1 draw at West Brom on Monday night.
A video of the interview appeared on Everton’s website on Tuesday, but was then taken down, with the club saying it had uploaded automatically.
Martinez said: “It’s an important issue because there’s been a lot of misunderstanding about it. Rom is only a young man, and sometimes after playing a game, the emotions can be high.
“All he wanted to present was a bit of support to a player he has admired from a young age. But he never supported his views, and he never supported the meaning of those views. Remember, there has been a big misunderstanding on this issue, and the quicker it gets solved, the better. Obviously, it’s not for us to solve that. That’s for the player [Anelka] and the FA.”
Lukaku, an ambassador for the UK anti-racism campaigning body Kick It Out, was a teammate of Anelka at Chelsea.
Martinez added: “Romelu wanted to support an ex-teammate, but he understands that there’s been a big misunderstanding. He never supported any conflicting views that could be disrespectful to anyone. That’s not the type of person he is.”
Anelka has maintained throughout the controversy that his gesture was intended to be anti-establishment rather than anti-Semitic.
He claimed he made it in support of French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala -- who has had recent performances of his shows banned by the French authorities because of concerns about racist content. Dieudonne also has convictions for anti-Semitic hate speech.
Lukaku, meanwhile, has apologised for his comments.
In a statement issued through Kick It Out, the Belgium international said: “I want to make clear that I was supporting a friend and player I have admired since I was a child.
“I apologise if I caused any offence with my comments as this was never my intention. There has been a misunderstanding and I want to clarify that I was in no way endorsing the gesture made by Nicolas.”
Kick It Out added: “Kick It Out has sought clarity from Romelu Lukaku on comments made to Sky Sports about Nicolas Anelka and the FA investigation into the quenelle gesture. Romelu has clearly stated that he had no intention to support the gesture made by Anelka.
“The campaign continues to work with Romelu as [an] ambassador and will look to guide him, in partnership with community organisations, on the sensitivity of issues covering all forms of discrimination moving forward.”