Martinez clears Lukaku stance
Romelu Lukaku (Getty Images)
London - Everton manager Roberto Martinez has insisted on Thursday that Romelu Lukaku was a fan of Nicolas Anelka but not the former France striker's controversial 'quenelle' gesture.
Martinez was speaking after Belgium forward Lukaku said in an interview on Everton's website that there did not have to be "such a big deal" about the West Bromwich Albion's player's actions, viewed by some in France as anti-Semitic.
Anelka performed the 'quenelle', putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other, in last month's 3-3 draw at West Ham.
He has until 1800 GMT on Thursday to decide whether to formally challenge a charge lodged by England's Football Association of making an abusive gesture with racial undertones.
If found guilty he faces a minimum five-game suspension.
The 'quenelle', popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, has been described by critics in France as an inverted Nazi salute, but Anelka has insisted that it was merely "a dedication" to the comic, whom he calls a friend.
Lukaku, an ambassador for British anti-racism group Kick It Out, gave an interview before the FA charges were announced in which he said: "I don't think he should be banned for that. He was just supporting a comedian in France."
The 20-year-old added: "We don't have to make such a big deal about it."
Everton quickly removed the video from their website.
Toffees manager Martinez, asked if he had spoken to Lukaku about the interview, recorded after Everton's 1-1 Premier League draw at West Brom on Monday, said Thursday: "We always speak and obviously this is an important issue because there has been a lot of misunderstanding about it.
"Rom is only a young man and sometimes after playing a game, the emotions could still be high.
"All he wanted to present was a bit of support for a player he has admired from a young age. But he never supported his views or the meaning of those views.
"Remember, there has been a big, big misunderstanding about this issue and the quicker that that gets solved -- and it is not for us to solve it, that is for the player (Anelka) and the FA - the better," the Spaniard added.
"Romelu wanted to support an ex-teammate. He understands there has been a big misunderstanding. He has never supported any sort of conflicting views that could be disrespectful to anyone -- it is not the type of person he is."
Lukaku and Anelka were briefly in the same Chelsea squad in 2011.
Despite the furore, Anelka played for West Brom against Everton on Monday, the same day club sponsors Zoopla said they would not be renewing their backing next season in the wake of the controversy.