French footballer and former Arsenal striker Nicolas Anelka, 34, celebrated his first of two goals in today’s West Brom vs. West Ham football match by apparently making a gesture known as the ‘quenelle’ in France, where it can have anti-semitic connotations. The quenelle is made by touching the right shoulder with the left hand, while keeping the right arm pointed downwards.
If found guilty of making the gesture intentionally, Anelka could face punishment for being offensive, insulting, abusive, or political.
The signal was popularised by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, and has been described as a reverse Nazi salute. It is widely recognised as being anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist, and anti-Israeli, though Dieudonne claims it is an anti-establishment and not aimed at Jews.
But Dieudonne – who originally started out as a left-wing activist, has recently aligned himself with both France’s Front National, and counterintuitively, some Islamist organisations. He has also been convicted for making anti-Semitic remarks on six occasions, and in 2008 was fined 7,000 euros for describing Holocaust remembrance as “memorial pornography”.
Anelka has previously been pictured making the gesture with the comedian on a Twitter post. Anelka converted to Islam in 2004 in the United Arab Emirates, taking the Muslim name of Abdul-Salam Bilal.
Earlier in 2013, Montpellier full-back Mathieu Deplagne celebrated a goal against Sochaux by putting his hand to his opposite shoulder.
The gesture was not widely known at the time and Deplagne was not punished.