LONDON — Nicolas Anelka’s future in English football was in the balance after the former France striker was given a five-match ban on Thursday for making a gesture widely condemned as anti-Semitic.
The Football Association found the French striker guilty of an “aggravated breach” of their rules for making the ‘quenelle’ playing for West Bromwich Albion in a Premier League match away to West Ham in December.
That saw the 34-year-old banned and fined £80,000 ($133,368).
He was also ordered to complete a “compulsory education course” although he does have the right of appeal.
Anelka made the ‘quenelle,’ a gesture condemned in France as anti-Semitic, after scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 Premier League draw against West Ham at Upton Park on December 28.
Anelka denied the gesture was anti-Semitic or that he himself was a racist.
However, he was banned by a three-man panel chaired by leading lawyer Christopher Quinlan following a hearing in Watford, north of London, which started on Tuesday.
He remains free to play for the time being, with a FA statement saying: Mr Anelka has the right to appeal the decision.
“Mr Anelka must notify the FA of his intention to appeal within seven days of receipt of the written reasons.
“The penalty is suspended until after the outcome of any appeal, or the time for appealing expires, or Mr Anelka notifies the FA of his decision not to appeal.”
The quenelle, described as an inverted Nazi salute, has been popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a friend of Anelka’s and who has been prosecuted in France for various racial offenses.
Anelka maintained his goal celebration was an anti-establishment gesture in support of Dieudonne.
Earlier this month, Dieudonne was banned from entering the United Kingdom after the Home Office, Britain’s interior ministry, made him the subject of an exclusion order.
Anelka was charged by the FA last month with an aggravated offense after making a gesture that was judged to be “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper”.
The aggravated breach was that it included “a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief”.