Watchdog demands progress in British soccer player’s quenelle probe

(JTA) — A leading watchdog on soccer racism in Britain accused England’s Football Association of foot dragging in probing a player who performed a gesture that is considered anti-Semitic.

The watchdog, Kick It Out, urged the Football Association to wrap up its investigation into the Dec. 28 action of Nicolas Anelka, a striker for the West Bromwich Albion team who performed the quenelle — a gesture reminiscent of the Hitler salute that was invented by the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.

A statement published Wednesday on Kick It Out’s website that the organization, “like others, is very frustrated at the length of time taken to investigate this issue and, as usual, has taken criticism, particularly from community organizations, who feel deeply and rightly aggrieved by the gesture.”

The Football Association said it would appoint an expert to aid the investigation and there would be no further update until Jan. 20.

Anelka said he was not anti-Semitic and explained the gesture was a personal tribute to Dieudonne. But the European Jewish Congress and other groups called for his immediate suspension and criticized Kick It Out and the Football Association for staying silent. Several other groups also have criticized the two bodies.

In its statement, Kick It Out stated its willingness to condemn anti-Semitism and other racism but expressed no criticism of Anelka or the quenelle — a gesture that France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, said was “an inverted Nazi salute and a gesture of anti-Semitic hate.”

“While an investigation is being undertaken, it is protocol for Kick It Out not to comment on matters which might prejudice the outcome,” the statement read.

 

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