I have been misunderstood, says Anelka

Nicolas Anelka has broken his silence over the controversial 'quenelle' gesture, claiming he is the victim of a paranoid society.

Anelka was banned for five games and fined £80,000 by the Football Association after performing the 'quenelle' gesture, which is considered anti-Semitic, in his goal-scoring display against West Ham in December.

The French striker then took to social media last month to announce his departure from West Bromwich Albion, who claimed he was sacked for gross misconduct.

Now Anelka has launched an extraordinary defence of himself in an interview with French newspaper Metro News.

"My quenelle was very misunderstood," said Anelka in the wake of reports FIFA are considering a worldwide ban for the former French international.

"I have no record of racism or anti-Semitism, there is no evidence to support it, not even a shred of evidence.

"I have never had a problem with the Jewish community, and besides why would I have? There are so many questions and no answers.

"At some point we must stop being paranoid and believing that we are all at war.

"The people who wrote the headlines do not know my life."

Anelka had claimed from the outset that the 'quenelle' was a dedication to friend and comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who says he invented the gesture.

Dieudonne was subsequently prevented from entering the United Kingdom after several of his shows were banned in France following Anelka's suspension.

The French comic is adamant the gesture is not anti-Semitic, which should spell the end of the story, according to Anelka.

"Because some people have performed (the quenelle) in front of a synagogue, then the gesture is suddenly meant to be racist and anti-Semitic in any place and in any situation," he said.

"Sorry, I'm not swallowing that. I've tried to swallow it but it won't go down.

"So if I understand correctly, all priests are paedophiles and all Muslims are terrorists? For me, it's the same principle.

"If this continues, the people who decide that the quenelle is racist will soon ban us from eating pineapples!

"It is a vulgar gesture, I grant you. There was never any religious intent on my part… I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic and this quenelle was a simple dedication."