London (AFP) - French footballer Nicolas Anelka on Thursday denied making a controversial goal salute which was condemned as anti-Semitic and vowed to fight charges which could see him banned from the sport.
Anelka, 34, was widely criticised for the 'quenelle' gesture which was popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala but described by critics as an inverted Nazi salute.
The West Brom striker said he would fight Football Association charges which could carry a five-match suspension.
"West Bromwich Albion can confirm that Nicolas Anelka has denied an FA charge regarding the gesture he made after scoring his first goal against West Ham United on December 28," said a club statement.
"The striker has requested a personal hearing."
A brief statement from the FA confirmed Anelka's denial and his request for a hearing but gave no date for when such a hearing would take place.
Anelka has denied he is racist or anti-Semitic but West Brom have already seen their shirt sponsor, Zoopla, opt against renewing a commercial agreement in the wake of the incident.
Reports in Britain have indicated other backers of the club are also considering their positions.
Dieudonne, in an interview broadcast just hours before former France striker Anelka denied the FA charge, said the 'quenelle' was a gesture of "emancipation".
Asked if the 'quenelle' was anti-Semitic or racist, the comedian told Britain's Sky News: "No, of course not.
"Nicolas Anelka and I are both of African origin and that gesture is the gesture of emancipation. Nicolas Anelka has all my support, that's clear," he said.
"I consider him a brother in humanity. He's someone who has great courage and for whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration.
"We all support him, we're all behind him, but above all else he we are very proud of him."
Shortly before West Brom's match against Everton on Monday, in which Anelka played, property website Zoopla -- whose co-owner is Jewish -- announced they would not be renewing their reported Â£3 million ($4.9 million) sponsorship of the team, which runs out at the end of this season.
On Tuesday, the FA said Anelka had made a gesture that was "abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper" and included "a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief" and gave him until 1800GMT on Thursday to accept or deny the charge.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, which happened in the 3-3 draw against West Ham, the European Jewish Congress demanded English Premier League officials ban Anelka.
"This salute is merely a lesser known Nazi salute and we expect the same kind of punishment to be handed down by the authorities as if Anelka had made the infamous outstretched arm salute," said European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor in a statement.
But Anelka, writing on his Facebook page on Wedenesday, said the head of French Jewish organisation CRIF, Roger Cukierman, suggests the 'quenelle' could only be considered anti-Semitic if performed in front of a Jewish institution such as a synagogue.
"I therefore ask the English FA to kindly remove the charge made against me. And I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist," Anelka added.
However Cukierman, in subsequent interviews with French media, expressed concern over Anelka's gesture.