West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka was criticized by a French government minister and Jewish groups on Saturday for celebrating a goal in the English Premier League with a gesture viewed in France as being anti-Semitic.
After scoring the first of his two goals in a 3-3 draw at West Ham on Saturday, Anelka performed a salute used by French comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala that is widely known as "la quenelle."
It involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand, and is seen by many as a Nazi salute in reverse.
West Brom coach Keith Downing said the former France international was "totally surprised" by the reaction to the gesture.
"It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well," Downing said of Anelka's celebration. "He uses it in his act and I think speculation (that it is anti-Semitic) can be stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really.
"He (Anelka) is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around."
However, Valerie Fourneyron, France's sports minister, said on Twitter: "Anelka's gesture is a shocking, disgusting provocation. No place for anti-Semitism and incitement to hatred on the football field."