Anelka requests personal hearing
Nicolas Anelka has requested a personal hearing after denying that his "quenelle" gesture at West Ham was anti-Semitic or racist.
The Football Association has confirmed West Brom striker Anelka is to argue his case at a forthcoming Commission hearing, although no date has yet been scheduled.
Anelka was charged by the FA on January 21 with making a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper after scoring during Albion's 3-3 draw at Upton Park on December 28.
The FA further alleged it to be an aggravated breach, in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.
The Frenchman faces a potential five-match ban at least if found guilty.
A statement from the FA read: "Nicolas Anelka has today replied to a charge in relation to an incident that occurred during the West Ham United versus West Bromwich Albion fixture at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December 2013.
"Anelka, the West Bromwich Albion player, has denied the charge and requested a personal hearing."
A statement from West Brom confirmed the FA's position, adding "the club will make no further comment until the FA's disciplinary process has reached a conclusion".
The case is a minefield for the FA as it is mired in French politics and beliefs, resulting in them hiring an independent expert to assess the symbolism of the 'quenelle' before laying down the charge.
The man behind the salute, French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, believes Anelka should be allowed to continue to perform the gesture as it signifies his liberation from slavery.
Dieudonne has strongly denied the gesture has any anti-Semitic or racist connotations, and instead is effectively an 'up yours' to the French establishment.
Dieudonne, a friend of Anelka, told Sky News: "The 'quenelle' salute, it's simply a salute.
"At the beginning, an insult, a little like this. I'm not sure how you do it in England (placing his left hand on his right arm and then raising the latter with a clenched fist).
"In France it means simply a gesture against the system, and then after time it became a gesture of emancipation.
"Many Africans like me, descendants of slaves, it's for self-liberation."
Performing the 'quenelle' by placing an upturned left hand across his right bicep, Dieudonne added: "That means liberation from a system, and it's because of that Nicolas Anelka did it.
"It's a gesture against submission to a system, a gesture belonging to the descendants of slaves who say 'Stop. It's done. I'm done'.
"There's no hint of racism. Racism is a bad thing."
Dieudonne feels Anelka should not be facing the prospect of sanctions from the FA simply for displaying his beliefs.
"It's strange because if they (the FA) are independent, if they love football, they should be more interested in what's happening in the match," added Dieudonne.
"When an athlete is technical like Anelka, one of the able ones, he scores goals, people applaud him.
"Anelka is a descendant of slaves and if he wants to remark on his history then he has a right to do so.
"We are very proud he does that, all of us, because Nicolas Anelka is hope.
"So if those who are pro-slavery deny us, the slaves, our emancipation, it's serious."
Further underlining he is firmly behind Anelka, Dieudonne said: "He has all my support. We see him as a brother in our humanity.
"He's someone who shows courage and is someone for whom we have lots of respect and admiration.
"We are all behind him in solidarity, and we are, above all, proud of him because of his noble position. To us, he is a prince.
"You have princes, queens in England, but us, we prefer Nicolas Anelka. He's our prince, no?"
Via his Facebook page on Wednesday, Anelka had reqested the FA drop the charge, insisting he is "not anti-Semitic or racist".
Anelka believed he had the backing of a Jewish community leader in the battle to clear his name.
However, Roger Cukierman, the president of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France) clarified earlier remarks he gave in a video interview to Le Figaro, further expressing his unhappiness with Anelka's actions.
"I was disappointed with the attitude of Anelka, whose behaviour is the opposite of what a top athlete must show the youth of our country," said Cukierman.
"I was troubled by the fact the public man he is - a symbol for some of the youth of our country, and so he must therefore be perfect in his behaviour - can make this gesture 'to show his friendship to his friend Dieudonne', whose motivations are without a doubt anti-Semitic."
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