Nicolas Anelka's 'quenelle' gesture in support of 'racist' friend Dieudonné causes outrage in France
Nicolas Anelka has never been far from controversy. Throughout his career, the French striker has too often made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
On Saturday, at Upton Park he added another offence to his back catalogue. The Parisian-born forward mixed football and politics and not for a pleasant protest song.
After his first goal in the 3-3 draw at West Ham - his first of the season for West Bromwich Albion this season - he celebrated with his right arm extended towards the ground, palm opened and the other one bent across his chest touching his right upper arm.
The gesture is known as the ‘Quenelle,’ labelled as a reversed Nazi salute and made famous a few years ago by the controversial Dieudonné, a French comedian from African background.
In the last few years, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, his full name, has become an anti-Semitic activist and campaigner.
Dieudonné used the Quenelle for the first time in 2009 when he was a candidate for the European elections at the helm of his own party, the anti-Zionist party, despite arguing that it was a generic anti-establishment symbol.
On Saturday in the French newspaper Le Parisien, Manuel Valls, the French home secretary, called the comedian “racist and anti-Semitic who nobody finds funny anymore” and wants to ban all his shows throughout the country.
The debate in France is blazing between the pro-Dieudonné and the anti-Dieudonné with politicians, celebrities and media opining.
Nicolas Anelka and, by proxy West Bromwich Albion, have added themselves to the controversy. The former Arsenal player, a converted Muslim, has always been a friend of Dieudonné.
They have been photographed together in the past doing the Quenelle but it is the first time that he publicly backs one of his friend’s political position.
Dieudonné will welcome the publicity and once again Anelka has succumbed to provocation that sums up his personality and his career.
The French striker, unavailable for comment, could be asked by the FA to explain his action which caused such fury in France.
Valérie Fourneyron, the sports minister, published a statement saying it was an “incitation to racial hatred and sickening,” the reactions on social networks were a mix between outrage and indignation.
By his own standards, 2013 had been a relatively quiet year for Nicolas Anelka, but in east London on Saturday he reminded everybody that he was still there and not just by scoring his first two goals of the season.