"I am neither anti-Semite nor racist."
Nicolas Anelka, a 34-year old French soccer player, defended himself on Sunday after making a gesture at a weekend match that was considered to be anti-Semitic.
According to Yahoo News, the gesture is known as a "quenelle" and is described as an inverted Nazi salute one straightened arm pointing downward while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand.
"This salute is merely a lesser known Nazi salute," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, "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 added, "This salute was created by a well-known extreme anti-Semite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering."
However, Anelka has denied these accusations, posting on Twitter: "And of course , I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic and I fully assume my gesture."
Et bien sûr, je ne suis ni antisémite ni raciste et j'assume totalement mon geste.
— nicolas anelka (@anelkaofficiel) December 29, 2013
But French comedian and political activist, Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, who often performs this salute, thanked Anelka for his support on his Facebook page. Dieudonne, who was initually an anti-racist activist, later became involved in far-right organizations and has been condemed in court several times for anti-Semitic remarks.
Anelka said that the saulte was simply "anti-establishment" and a dedication to his friend, Dieudonne. He posted on Twitter: "The dumpling is a dedication to Dieudonné. With regard to the ministers who give their own interpretations of my dumpling, it is they who create the confusion and controversy without knowing what it really means this gesture...So I ask people not to be duped by the media."
Anelka has been at the heart of several controversies aside from this one. Known as "Le Sulk" because of his sometimes nonchalant attitude, his largest controversy came when he was sent home from the 2010 World Cup after insulting his coach, Raymond Domenech, for which he refused to apologize, ending his international career.
The Football Association told Agence France-Presse Sunday that it would investigate the incident to determine if Anelka should be punished. If so, he could face a minimum five-ban match under a new anti-discriminatory disciplinary measures introduced in May.
Image via YouTube