Belfast Telegraph

FA urged to come down hard on Nicola Anelka

PRESSURE groups have called for Nicolas Anelka to face significantly more than the minimum five-match ban after the striker was charged by the Football Association over alleged anti-Semitism.

West Brom's French forward is considering his options after being charged with an aggravated offence by the FA over his controversial 'quenelle' goal celebration.

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 and aimed at the French establishment.

Anelka has denied the salute was anti-Semitic, but Jewish groups say if the charge is proved then the 32-year-old's lack of contrition should lead to an even more severe sanction than the five-match ban introduced by the FA this season as a minimum punishment for aggravated offences relating to ethnic origin, race or religion.

Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "I know under the rules that on a first-time offence there is a minimum five-game suspension, but I think what he did was sufficiently serious to justify a longer suspension than five matches.

"He has not indicated one bit of remorse or regret or apologised for his actions.

"He has simply said he wouldn't do it again and that is not good enough."

Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust which advises the Jewish community on security and anti-Semitism, said the FA should throw the book at Anelka.

He said: "Anelka has introduced a very ugly phenomenon into British football.

"Anelka's action risks the 'quenelle' being taken up by actual anti-Semites and used against British Jews: as it has been in France and elsewhere. The FA should throw the book at him."

Anelka, who has until Thursday to respond to the charge, has agreed not to perform the salute again after the club accepted it had caused some offence, but there has been no apology from the player.

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