PARIS, Dec 29 (Reuters) - West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka said on Sunday he was not anti-Semitic following the controversial gesture he made during Saturday's Premier League draw at West Ham United which sparked widespread criticism.
French government ministers hit out at the former France international after he celebrated the first of his two goals with an apparent "quenelle" hand signal and the English FA said it would investigate the incident.
The gesture, which is linked to anti-Semitism, has been made famous by French comedian Dieudonne, a close friend of Anelka's.
One of the most controversial figures in French sport who was kicked out of the national squad during the 2010 World Cup for insulting his coach Raymond Domenech, Anelka said he only wanted to greet his friend.
"The meaning of 'quenelle' is anti-system. I don't know what it has to do with religion," Anelka said on his Twitter account.
"This 'quenelle' was a sign for Dieudonne. As for the ministers who give their own views about my 'quenelle', they are the ones who confuse with something else and stir the controversy without knowing what the gesture really means.
"So I would ask people not to be deceived by the medias. And of course, I'm not anti-Semitic nor racist and I take full responsibility for my gesture," he said.
Anelka also published a photo of United States president Barack Obama making the same kind of gesture alongside American music stars Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles.
French Interior minister Manuel Valls this week said he would take action to ban Dieudonne's shows after the comedian targeted a radio anchorman of Jewish origins.
(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Ed Osmond)
- Nicolas Anelka
- West Ham United
- West Bromwich Albion