FRENCH Interior Minister Manuel Valls has called the five-match ban handed down to English Premier League footballer Nicolas Anelka for making the controversial quenelle gesture “an important sign”.
The West Bromwich Albion striker received the ban and an £80,000 (€97,420) fine from an independent disciplinary committee, after making the controversial ‘quenelle’ gesture in December 2013.
Mr Valls said: “I do not have to comment on the English Football Association’’s sanctions, but it is an important sign. Today, everyone must know that this gesture is an anti-Semitic act.”
A statement on the English Premiership football club’s website said: "West Bromwich Albion treats very seriously any such allegation which includes any reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion and/or belief.
“Upon both charges being proven, the club has suspended Nicolas Anelka pending the conclusion of the FA's disciplinary process and the club's own internal investigation.
"The club acknowledges that the FA panel 'did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite'… However, the club cannot ignore the offence that his actions have caused, particularly to the Jewish community, nor the potential damage to the club's reputation."
The ban and fine are the most lenient punishment that can be meted out under the English FA’s anti-discrimination rules.
Former France international Anelka maintained he performed the gesture as a special dedication to his friend, the controversial comedian Dieudonné.
In an earlier statement, Anelka's representatives said: “Nicolas Anelka is pleased that the FA regulatory commission has found him not to be an anti-Semite and that he did not intend to express or promote anti-Semitism.
“He is now waiting to receive the commission's full reasons for their decision before considering whether or not to appeal.”