French footballer Nicolas Anelka, who plays striker for the English club West Bromwich Albion, has been charged for allegedly making an anti-Semitic salute during a recent match, the Football Association (FA) announced on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old performed the 'quenelle' salute, which is made by putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other, during West Brom's 3-3 draw at West Ham United in the Premier League last month.
"The FA has charged the West Bromwich Albion player Nicolas Anelka following an incident that occurred during the West Ham United versus West Bromwich Albion fixture at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December 2013," read a statement on the FA website.
"It is alleged that, in the 40th minute of the fixture, Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3.
"It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3, in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief."
Anelka has until 6pm (GMT) Thursday to respond to the charge.
If found guilty, he faces a minimum five-game suspension under new anti-discrimination measures introduced by the FA in May last year.
The 'quenelle', popularised by French comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, has been described by critics in France as an inverted Nazi salute, but Anelka has insisted that it was merely "a dedication" to the comic.
M'bala M'bala, who is known simply as Dieudonné, says the gesture is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic.
The FA's decision to charge Anelka, after a three-and-a-half-week investigation, comes a day after West Brom's shirt sponsors, property website Zoopla, decided to end their affiliation with the club. British media reports suggested the company had called on West Brom to drop Anelka over the affair.
Anelka has continued to appear for the club despite the furore, playing for 77 minutes in West Brom’s 1-1 draw with Everton on Monday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-01-21