Anelka's salute stirs anger
FRENCH footballer Nicolas Anelka triggered controversy on Saturday when he made a post-goal gesture many interpret to be a modified "Nazi-style" salute.
The 34-year-old striker thrust his straightened right arm downwards while tapping his bicep with the other hand after scoring a goal in a game in Britain between his West Bromwich Albion team and West Ham United. The game ended at 3-3.
The gesture - an imitation of a salute frequently used by a French comedian friend of Anelka who has been convicted several times for anti-Semitic public comments - was immediately and widely condemned.
France's sports minister, Ms Valerie Fourneyron, called it a "shocking, sickening provocation" and said there is "no place for anti-Semitism and inciting hatred on the football pitch".
British media reported that the Football Association was investigating the incident, while the European Jewish Congress demanded English Premier League officials ban Anelka.
"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," said European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor in a statement.
Online, a storm brewed, with some Twitter users calling Anelka, a former member of France's national team, "loathsome" and "racist".
Anelka himself took to Twitter to try to defuse the row, saying in messages in French and in English: "This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonne."
West Bromwich Albion coach Keith Downing echoed that during a post-match press conference in which he said the footballer was "totally surprised" by the backlash.
The salute, said to look like a mix of a downward Nazi hail and an obscene French movement meaning "Up Yours", has been adopted by many of Dieudonne's fans, though interpretations vary as to whether it is anti-Semitic or anti-establishment.