LONDON (AP) — European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor is asking soccer authorities to strengthen their fight against racism and anti-Semitism in the wake of Nicolas Anelka’s controversial goal celebration in a Premier League match.
In a letter sent both to the English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and UEFA president Michel Platini, Kantor wrote that his organization often receives reports of “attacks on Jews, whether verbal or physical, which also include acts of anti-Semitism at matches involving English and European football clubs.”
Anelka is the subject of an investigation by the English Football Association after celebrating the first of his two goals for West Bromwich Albion against West Ham with a gesture that’s known in France as a “quenelle.” It involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching the shoulder with the opposite hand and has been described as an inverted Nazi salute.
West Brom is also investigating the matter internally but Anelka, who is facing a five-match ban if found guilty by the FA, has promised not to do the gesture again and is available for his club’s home game against Newcastle on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old Anelka has defended his actions by saying he was showing his support for French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who performs the gesture on stage and popularized it in France. Dieudonne, who has been frequently accused of anti-Semitism, is facing a possible ban of his public performances after French Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed to examine all legal options that would put a stop to the comedian’s shows.
Both Anelka and Dieudonne claim the salute is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic. But Kantor said Anelka’s goal celebration, which has been described as “disgusting” by the French sports minister, was “a reminder that hatred of Jews in the stands can very easily find its way right on to the pitch.”
Kantor, who had already asked the FA to ban Anelka for his gesture, said his group would be happy to meet with Dyke and Platini “to discuss practical ideas and suggestions for combating anti-Semitism and racism in football.”
Pictures of famous French sportsmen performing a “quenelle” — including San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker and Manchester City player Samir Nasri — have emerged following Anelka’s goal celebration. Parker has apologized for the gesture and Nasri insisted it is not racist but anti-establishment.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.