LONDON (AP) — Nicolas Anelka returned to the headlines. And - once again - the bad boy of French football grabbed the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
Anelka caused an outcry in his home country by celebrating a goal scored in the Premier League for his English club West Bromwich Albion on Saturday with a gesture viewed as being anti-Semitic and described by France's Sports Minister as "disgusting."
The scandal quickly widened as European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor asked the Premier League to ban Anelka. The Football Association is considering opening an investigation.
"This salute is merely a lesser known Nazi salute 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 said. "This salute was created by a well-known extreme anti-Semite who has displayed his hatred of Jews, mocked the Holocaust and Jewish suffering."
The gesture, known as a "quenelle" - a traditional French dish - is often performed by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala and described as an inverted Nazi salute. It involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand.
Anelka made the gesture after scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw at West Ham on Saturday. The former France international, whose career has been marred by controversy, has defended himself against the accusations, saying he was merely expressing his support for Dieudonne.
He again took to Twitter on Sunday, explaining that his gesture was "anti-system," and denied accusations of racism or anti-Semitism.
"There should be no room for such intolerance and racism in sports and we expect that the English Premier League officials as well as the police will give Anelka the appropriate punishment," Kantor said.
A stand-up comedian and political activist who has been repeatedly fined for racial insults, Dieudonne thanked Anelka for his support on his Facebook page.
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 this week to examine all legal options that would put a stop to the comedian's shows.