West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka today insisted he is not racist or anti-Semitic after his controversial goal celebration at West Ham.
The Albion forward, who netted his first two goals for the club in yesterday’s 3-3 draw in London, accused politicians and the media of attempting to “dupe” the public.
The 34-year-old made the controversial ‘quenelle’ gesture after his first goal at Upton Park, leading French minister for sport Valerie Fourneyron to condemn the gesture, describing it as "shocking" and "disgusting" through her official Twitter account.
Anelka claimed the gesture was simply a tribute to his friend, the controversial French comedian Dieudonne, who has been linked to anti-Semitism in his homeland and popularised the quenelle, which has been interpreted by some commentators, politicians and Jewish groups as a reversed Nazi salute.
Anelka today tweeted: “Meaning of quenelle: anti-system. I do not know what the word religion has to do with this story!
“This quenelle is a dedication to Dini. 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 means!
“I shall therefore ask the people not to be duped by the media.
“And of course, I am neither anti-Semitic nor racist.”
In an earlier tweet, in English, Anelka wrote:
This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné— nicolas anelka (@anelkaofficiel) December 28, 2013
Anelka returned to the Baggies side for the first time in over two months and scored a brace in an entertaining Barclays Premier League game in which both sides came from behind.
Mrs Fourneyron condemned the gesture, describing it as "shocking" and "disgusting" through her official Twitter account.
She wrote: "Anelka's gesture is a shocking provocation, disgusting. There's no place for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred on the football field."
The European Jewish Congress has also condemned Anelka, with president Dr Moshe Kantor wanting him to be banned as if he "had made the infamous outstretched arm salute" of the Nazis.
"It is sickening that such a well-known footballer would make such an abusive and hateful gesture in front of tens of thousands of spectators," Kantor said.
West Brom head coach Keith Downing had earlier said that Anelka was surprised by claims.
Downing said the gesture was in no way linked to anything other than a dedication to Dieudonne, a personal friend, and said anything else being read in to the display was "absolute rubbish".
"I'm aware of it but it has got nothing to do what is being said," Downing replied when asked about the gesture.
"It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well. He uses it in his act and I think speculation can be stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really.
"He is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around, he is totally surprised by it."
The Football Association is said to be aware of the allegation over Anelka's celebration and is looking into the matter.