Footballer Nicolas Anelka could face an FA investigation after he celebrated a goal with a controversial gesture linked to anti-Semitism in France.
After scoring the first of two goals for West Brom against West Ham, the former France international appeared to perform the “quenelle” salute made famous by French comedian Dieudonne.
France’s Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron condemned the striker over the straight-armed salute, which Jewish groups have called “a Nazi salute in reverse”.
She wrote on her official Twitter account: “Anelka’s gesture is a shocking provocation, sickening. There’s no place for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred on the football field.”
The Football Association is aware of the criticism and is looking into the celebration.
Anelka, 34, used his Twitter account to defend the celebration, explaining that it was simply a tribute to his friend Dieudonne.
He wrote: “This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonne.”
The footballer’s gesture came after France’s Interior Ministry said it was looking at legal ways to ban performances by Dieudonne M’bala M’bala – who has been accused of insulting the memory of Holocaust victims and threatening public order.
The stand-up comedian has been fined repeatedly for hate speech and ran in the 2009 European parliament elections at the head of an “Anti-Zionist List” made-up far-right activists.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said: “Dieudonne M’bala M’bala doesn’t seem to recognise any limits any more.
“From one comment to the next, as he has shown in several television shows, he attacks the memory of Holocaust victims in an obvious and unbearable way.”
Dieudonne has responded to the criticism from prominent Jewish figures by threatening to sue them for linking his gesture – a downward straight arm touched at the shoulder by the opposite hand – to the Hitler salute.
He named the gesture “la quenelle” – the word for an elongated creamed fish dumpling – and says it stands for his anti-Zionist and anti-establishment views, not anti-Semitism.
The gesture has gone viral on social media recently, with mostly young fans displaying it at parties and sports events. Some do it while in the audience at live television shows.
Two soldiers were sanctioned by the army in September for making the gesture in uniform in front of a Paris synagogue.
Roger Cukierman, head of the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organisations, complained about it to French President Francois Hollande last week.
He said: “It’s the Nazi salute in reverse.
“Very clearly, Mr Dieudonne is developing a nearly professional anti-Semitism under the cover of telling jokes.”
Kick It Out, the anti-discrimination campaigning group, said it was looking into the gesture from Anelka and would help the FA if its assistance is requested.
In a statement, Kick It Out said: “Kick It Out has been made aware of West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka making an alleged gesture, known as the ‘quenelle’, which carries anti-Semitic connotations during today’s fixture against West Ham United at Upton Park.
“The campaign is in contact with partners in England and France regarding this matter and has offered its support to the Football Association in any forthcoming investigation.”
Source : Sky news