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
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
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
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
”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,”
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
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
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
”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.”