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Bad boy of French football at heart of more controversy

LONDON (AP) - 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.

"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."

Join the discussion

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Ed December 29 2013 at 1:43 PM

Strange considering the Nazi's would have done in with him very quickly...

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1 reply
ahsaki2 Ed December 30 2013 at 3:24 AM

Oh, they would've! He's just to brain-dead to know it. Probably never cracked open a book in his life.

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ARLENE December 29 2013 at 6:01 PM

No the Italian one is with the left hand in the fold of the elbow and the right arm folded up.And the bird if you want to throw it in.

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1 reply
venturamickey ARLENE December 29 2013 at 7:06 PM

I prefer the italian one myself. TUTA SONA POTZ

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gmgpjandon December 29 2013 at 12:13 PM

Who that has anything to do really gives a damn? He's only one step up from a Hollywood jester. lol

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scotch43 December 29 2013 at 6:09 PM

yeah because hitler and company would have made him their right hand man.....

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2 replies
Jennifer scotch43 December 29 2013 at 10:13 PM

Exactly! He and Jesse Owens!

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ahsaki2 scotch43 December 30 2013 at 2:42 AM

Yeah, right hand handy man.

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joeboken08 December 29 2013 at 6:20 PM

I don't think the Nazi party would approve of him given his race. So he's saluting a group that hates him, makes no sense to me.

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2 replies
Ken joeboken08 December 29 2013 at 6:25 PM

it's more complicated than that. The Nazis had some very complicated alliances. Their racial theory applied to issues like the rule of Europe, intermarriage, etc.. They were allied with Japanese, Egyptians, Palestinians and Iranians.

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1 reply
ahsaki2 Ken December 30 2013 at 2:41 AM

Only militarily and politically, and as against the Allies; they still didn't meet Aryan standards of purity to him. He wouldn't have wanted them intermarrying with "pure" German stock.

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ahsaki2 joeboken08 December 30 2013 at 2:39 AM

I guess somewhere in his confused and delusional mind he believes Hitler hated the Jews more than Muslims or black people since he killed 6 million Jews. Muslims who hate Jews kill me, as if they wouldn't have been dealt with the same way if they'd been the group Hitler blamed for Germany's problems instead of Jews.

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tauzero0 December 29 2013 at 11:25 AM

I guess he is just too stupid to know that with his ethnic looks, he would have been at the head of the line into the ovens operated by the Nazis.

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1 reply
nburke78 tauzero0 December 29 2013 at 11:54 AM

You've never heard of the Grand Mufti have you? He was a SS general, and Saddam's mentor. Also, Rommel fought in Africa, and he wasn't rushing anyone to death.

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realrednk December 29 2013 at 6:26 PM

Hmmmmmm.....I am not seeing this anywhere! Looks like he is just pulling up his sleve?? Feel free to point out what I am missin??????

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1 reply
majorsujet realrednk December 29 2013 at 6:51 PM

In multiple shots? Right.

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EzinWy December 29 2013 at 2:11 PM

The guy is a simple thug ... ban him from soccer. Next player up.

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xessexcva9 December 29 2013 at 7:48 PM

Maybe it's the only way the French can find a way to strike back against somthing German????

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Dan December 29 2013 at 11:11 AM

Hey! While I realize the rest of the world calls it "football" in American media it's called SOCCER. For the sake of us Americans please do not call these soccer players "footballers." Thank you. ☺

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