Sachin Nakrani — Gaurdian.co.uk Dec 29, 2013
Nicolas Anelka could face a Football Association charge for his controversial goal celebration during Saturday’s 3-3 draw with West Ham.
West Bromwich Albion‘s caretaker Keith Downing refused to condemn the French striker for seeming to make a controversial salute after scoring the first of his two goals.
Anelka confirmed to Downing that he did perform a quenelle, described by some as a “reverse Nazi salute”, after his 40th-minute strike at Upton Park but as far as the West Brom hierarchy are concerned, it was done as a tribute to the French comedian Dieudonné, a friend of Anelka.
“This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné,” Anelka tweeted in both French and English on his official account.
Dieudonné is a controversial figure in France, having been accused of insulting the memory of Holocaust victims. The quenelle is Dieudonné’s signature gesture, although he insists it is an anti-establishment gesture and not against Jewish people. Anelka has previously been photographed performing the gesture alongside Dieudonné but Saturday’s events brought the debate to England while provoking further outrage and debate in France, where the match was televised.
On Saturday night the French minister for sport, Valérie Fourneyron, condemned the gesture, describing it as “disgusting”, and said through her Twitter account: “Anelka’s gesture is a shocking provocation, disgusting. There’s no place for antisemitism and incitement to hatred on the football field.”
Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said it was “sickening that such a well-known footballer would make such an abusive and hateful gesture in front of tens of thousands of spectators”.
“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.This salute was created by a well-known extreme antisemite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering.”
“I’m aware of it but it has got nothing to do with what is being said,” Downing replied when asked about the gesture. “It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very well.
“I think speculation can be stopped now, it is rubbish really. He is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around, he is totally surprised by it.”
It is understood that the Football Association is aware of the gesture and will be looking into the matter.
Kick It Out, the anti-discrimination campaigning group, said it was assessing the gesture from Anelka and would help the FA if its assistance is requested. A statement read: “The campaign is in contact with partners in England and France regarding this matter.”