Nicolas Anelka was accused by the French Government and Jewish groups of celebrating a goal with a gesture regarded as anti-Semitic in France.
The West Bromwich Albion striker scored a goal and then gave a salute known as "La quenelle." It is a gesture popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala and is considered to be a form of reverse Nazi salute.
It involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand.
Keith Downing, the West Bromwich coach, said that Ankela was ''totally surprised'' by the hostile reaction to the gesture.
''It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well. He uses it in his act and I think speculation (that it is anti-Semitic) can be stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really. He (Anelka) is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around.''But Valerie Fourneyron, France's sports minister, tweeted: ''Anelka's gesture is a shocking, disgusting provocation. No place for anti-Semitism 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 anti-Semite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering.''The French government is considering ways to ban performances by the comedian - who happens to be a friend of Nicolas Anelka - following numerous protests from Jewish groups.
This incident may seem to those not living in France as unjustified criticism of a controversial gesture, and Nicolas Anelka to be the victim of unfair attacks. But, Anelka's action must be viewed against the background of increasingly strident anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli activities in the French Republic in recent months, including violent attacks on French Jews..
One can not forget the murder of three young Jewish children and a Rabbi in 2012 in Toulouse, France by Mohammad Merah, who was motivated by his hatred of Jews and Israel. No civilized nation can tolerate open displays of hateful religious and racial incitement, and Anelka's behavior is inexcusable, as is his coach's attempt to downplay the severity of this vile incident.