FA hands Assou-Ekotto three-match ban over quenelle gesture

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who was on-loan at QPR last season and has been omitted from Tottenham's Barclays Premier League squad.

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Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto was banned for three games Friday for tweeting his support for Nicolas Anelka following the striker’s contentious goal celebration during a Premier League match last season.

The English Football Association also fined the Cameroon international 50,000 pounds ($82,000), warned him about his future conduct and ordered him to complete a compulsory education course.

Anelka celebrated scoring a goal for West Bromwich Albion against West Ham on Dec. 28 by performing a gesture which is known in France as a quenelle and is regarded as anti-Semitic. Assou-Ekotto posted in French on Twitter after the match: ”I congratulate you on the beautiful quenelle.”

Both players were born in France.

The FA said the comment was ”abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper” and was a breach of FA rules.

Peter Griffiths, chairman of the independent regulatory commission hearing, said it was satisfied that when Assou-Ekotto sent the tweet, ”in his mind he believed he was congratulating Anelka on what he perceived to be an anti-establishment gesture as opposed to one associated with anti-Semitism.”

But Griffiths added that the commission believed Assou-Ekotto would have been aware of the connotation and controversies surrounding the use of the gesture and that ”these had included, rightly or wrongly, allegations concerning anti-Semitism.”

Tottenham issued a statement at the time of Assou-Ekotto’s tweet, saying the player accepted his comments were ”ill-advised.”

Assou-Ekotto can appeal.

Anelka was banned for five matches and had his contract with West Brom terminated for performing the quenelle.