Albion striker Nicolas Anelka could face a police probe into an apparent ‘anti-Semitic’ gesture during a match.
The former French international sparked controversy when he made his goal celebration, known as the quenelle, after he scored two during the Baggies’ 3-3 draw at West Ham United on Saturday. He claims the gesture was a dedication to a friend, the controversial comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala.
But the French minister for sport Valerie Fourneyron labelled his actions as ‘disgusting’, and they have been condemned as a form of Nazi salute by Jewish groups in France. Today a Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed officers were looking into the matter with spokesman Alan Crockford saying: “We are aware of it and we are taking a look at it.”
The 34-year-old star took to twitter to defend himself in the wake of the game, writing: “This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonne.” And he went on to say: “Meaning of quenelle: anti-system. I do not know what the word religion has to do with this story.
“With regard to the ministers who give their own interpretations of my quenelle, these are the ones who create the confusion and controversy without knowing what something really mean.
“I shall therefore ask the people not to be duped by the media. And of course, I am neither anti-Semitic nor racist.”
In reply, Dieudonne tweeted: “Congratulations to Anelka for his #quenelle! Magnificent! And thanks for your support.”
The Football Association has launched an investigation into the goal celebration and among the sanctions they could enforce is a match ban. Speaking after the game, Baggies’ acting head coach Keith Downing said that Anelka was surprised by the furore. “He is totally surprised by the problems or the speculation that’s being thrown around,” he added.
The footballer joined West Bromwich Albion in the summer but has endured a difficult start to his Hawthorns career.
Anelka was granted compassionate leave following the death of his agent Eric Manasse within days of the season kicking off in August. It took the then Albion boss Steve Clarke to persuade him to call off his threat to retire.
He returned to the first team this weekend for the first time in more than two months.