Anelka again at heart of another controversy

Nicolas Anelka returned to the headlines. And – once again – the

bad boy of French football grabbed the spotlight for the wrong

reasons.

Anelka caused an outcry in his home country by celebrating a

goal scored in the Premier League for his English club West

Bromwich Albion on Saturday with a gesture viewed as being

anti-Semitic and described by France’s Sports Minister as

”disgusting.”

The scandal quickly widened as European Jewish Congress

President Moshe Kantor asked the Premier League to ban Anelka. The

Football Association is considering opening an investigation.

”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,” Kantor

said. ”This salute was created by a well-known extreme anti-Semite

who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and

Jewish suffering.”

The gesture, known as a ”quenelle” – a traditional French dish

– is often performed by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala and

described as an inverted Nazi salute. It involves pointing one

straightened arm downward while touching that arm’s shoulder with

the opposite hand.

Anelka made the gesture after scoring the first of his two goals

in a 3-3 draw at West Ham on Saturday. The former France

international, whose career has been marred by controversy, has

defended himself against the accusations, saying he was merely

expressing his support for Dieudonne.

He again took to Twitter on Sunday, explaining that his gesture

was ”anti-system,” and denied accusations of racism or

anti-Semitism.

”There should be no room for such intolerance and racism in

sports and we expect that the English Premier League officials as

well as the police will give Anelka the appropriate punishment,”

Kantor said.

A stand-up comedian and political activist who has been

repeatedly fined for racial insults, Dieudonne thanked Anelka for

his support on his Facebook page.

Dieudonne, who has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism, is

facing a possible ban of his public performances after French

Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed this week to examine all legal

options that would put a stop to the comedian’s shows.

Anelka, who had previously been photographed performing the

salute, has been quiet since joining West Bromwich Albion but his

first two goals this season were overshadowed by the scandal.

After two disappointing seasons at Shanghai Shenhua and

Juventus, the 34-year-old striker got another chance in England,

where he spent some of the best years of his career.

The former Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton and

Chelsea player is one of the most talented and controversial

players France has produced since former Manchester United great

Eric Cantona.

After growing up in a Parisian suburb, Anelka started his career

at Paris Saint-Germain and was quickly spotted by Arsenal manager

Arsene Wenger, who signed him in 1997.

Known for his immense technical skills, Anelka played a big part

in the Gunners winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup but

missed out on a place in the France team that won the 1998 World

Cup.

Anelka’s sometimes nonchalant attitude and apparent lack of

commitment to the team started to anger the Arsenal fans, who gave

him the nickname ”Le Sulk.” Anelka then joined Real Madrid, where

he won the Champions League, before moving to PSG, Liverpool,

Manchester City, Fenerbahce and Bolton.

The much-travelled Frenchman then struck up an electric

partnership with Didier Drogba at Chelsea, winning the Premier

League title and two FA Cups with the Blues.

Anelka caused the biggest controversy of his career with the

French national team, when he was sent home from the 2010 World Cup

after insulting then-coach Raymond Domenech in the dressing room.

His reputation reached its nadir, but the stubborn Anelka refused

to apologize and ended his international career in the wake of the

scandal with 14 goals in 69 appearances.

On Saturday, West Brom coach Keith Downing said the former

France international was ”totally surprised” by the reaction to

the gesture.

”It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very

well,” Downing said of Anelka’s celebration. ”He uses it in his

act and I think speculation (that it is anti-Semitic) can be

stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really.”