- POSTED: 31 Dec 2013 00:44
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French striker Nicolas Anelka has agreed not to perform the controversial 'quenelle' salute that has been linked with anti-Semitism, his club West Bromwich Albion announced on Monday.
LONDON: French striker Nicolas Anelka has agreed not to perform the controversial 'quenelle' salute that has been linked with anti-Semitism, his club West Bromwich Albion announced on Monday.
Anelka, 34, sparked a media storm on Saturday when he celebrated the first of his two goals in the 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham United by putting one arm across his chest and straightening the other.
The gesture, popularised by French comedian Dieudonne, has been described by critics in France as an 'inverted Nazi salute', but Anelka insisted on Twitter that it was merely "a dedication" to the comic.
However, with England's Football Association having launched an investigation into the matter, West Brom have asked Anelka not to repeat the gesture.
"Upon reporting for training this morning (Monday), Nicolas was asked by sporting and technical director Richard Garlick to give a full explanation about his goal celebration during which he again strongly denied intending to cause offence," read a statement published on the club website.
"The club fully acknowledges that Nicolas's goal celebration has caused offence in some quarters and has asked Nicolas not to perform the gesture again. Nicolas immediately agreed to adhere to this request."
Dieudonne, whose full name is Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, has been fined seven times for defamation, insult, hate speech and for racial discrimination.
On Monday, prosecutors in Paris launched a probe to ascertain whether he was guilty of inciting racial hatred when he mentioned the "gas chambers" in reference to a Jewish journalist during a performance on December 19.
Dieudonne maintains that he is not anti-Jewish and Anelka said that he considered the 'quenelle' gesture to be "anti-establishment" rather than anti-Semitic.
"I do not know what religion has to do with this story," he wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
"I ask people not to be duped by the media. And of course I am neither anti-Semite nor racist."
French sports minister Valerie Fourneyron condemned the gesture as "shocking" and "sickening", while the European Jewish Congress called for Anelka to face the same punishment that would be handed down for a Nazi salute.
West Brom said it had offered its "full cooperation" to the FA and would continue "to make its own inquiries", but that Anelka would "remain under consideration for first-team selection".
Under new anti-discriminatory rules introduced in May, Anelka faces a minimum five-match ban if the FA decides he is guilty of discrimination.
Pictures have also emerged online of two other French players, current internationals Samir Nasri and Mamadou Sakho, performing the gesture.
The photograph of Manchester City midfielder Nasri is thought to have been taken outside City's training base in November, but he was reportedly unaware of its political connotations.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini refused to comment on the matter during a press conference on Monday, saying: "I read that something happened with Anelka, but I don't know anything about Samir. I can't talk about something I haven't seen."
Sakho tweeted in November that he was "tricked" into striking the pose for a photograph that appeared online.
On Monday, a Liverpool spokesperson told Britain's Press Association that the former Paris Saint-Germain centre-back "had no knowledge of any meaning or significance attached to the gesture".
Anelka, who converted to Islam in 2004, has had a chequered playing career, having notably been sent home from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after clashing with France coach Raymond Domenech.