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Friday March 7, 2014 MYT 1:27:01 AM
Friday March 7, 2014 MYT 1:27:48 AM
by mike collett
West Bromwich Albion's Nicolas Anelka controls the ball during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Staples
LONDON (Reuters) - Nicolas Anelka was banned because the 'quenelle' gesture he used to celebrate a goal is "strongly associated with anti-Semitic sentiments and anti-Zionist politics" according to the independent regulatory commission that ruled against him.
The commission published their 35-page written report into the case on Thursday and took the view that while there was no proof West Bromwich Albion's 34-year-old French striker was "expressing or promoting" anti-Semitism when he used the inverted Nazi salute, the gesture was in itself offensive enough to warrant his five-match ban.
The English FA, which banned Liverpool striker Luis Suarez for eight games in 2011 after he racially abused Manchester United's Patrice Evra, had argued for a more severe sanction than the minimum five-match ban, the report showed.
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight games in 2011 for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Anelka made the gesture after scoring his first Premier League goal for West Brom against West Ham United on December 28.
He was found guilty of "abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper conduct" which "included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief" last week.
He was also fined 80,000 pounds and was subsequently suspended by his club pending an internal inquiry.
Anelka denied it was an anti-Semitic gesture, saying the salute was in solidarity with his friend, French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, who invented it and uses it in his shows which are strongly anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist, according to the commission.
The commission said Anelka's quenelle "did contain a reference to anti-Semitism, adding "We further concluded that Dieudonne is strongly associated with anti-Semitism and, as a result, we found that the quenelle is strongly associated with anti-Semitism.
"We agreed with the FA that it is not possible to divorce that association from the gesture."
Anelka's leading counsel Pushpinder Saini argued that the quenelle was not necessarily anti-Semitic but anti-establishment.
Anelka has until March 13 to appeal.
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