West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka has agreed to stop performing a controversial goal celebration that has anti-Semitic connotations and caused an outcry in his native France.
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Anelka is the subject of an investigation by the English Football Association after celebrating the first of his two goals against West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday with a gesture that’s known in France as a ”quenelle.”
It is described by critics as an inverted Nazi salute and condemned by France’s sports minister as ”shocking” and ”disgusting.”
”The club fully acknowledges that Nicolas’ goal celebration has caused offense in some quarters and has asked Nicolas not to perform the gesture again,” West Brom said Monday in a statement. ”Nicolas immediately agreed to adhere to this request.”
Anelka is available for West Brom’s home game against Newcastle on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old Anelka has defended his actions by saying he was merely expressing his support for French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who performs the gesture on stage. Dieudonne claims the salute, which involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm’s shoulder with the opposite hand, is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic.
West Brom said Anelka ”strongly denied intending to cause offense” when he was asked to explain his goal celebration by the club’s sporting and technical director, Richard Garlick, at practice Monday.
Anelka has become the first player sanctioned under rules brought in by English soccer to combat racist behavior and faces a minimum five-match ban.
”The club is aware that the Football Association is investigating the matter and has offered its full cooperation,” West Brom said. ”The club will continue to make its own enquiries – a process which will remain confidential between the club and Nicolas.”