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12/28/2013 05:57 pm ET | Updated Dec 30, 2013

Nicolas Anelka Celebrates Goal With Allegedly Anti-Semitic 'Quenelle' Gesture (PHOTO)

Nicolas Anelka sparked outrage with a controversial goal celebration that has been described as a "shocking, disgusting provocation" by French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron. The 34-year-old French striker netted two goals for West Brom in a 3-3 draw with West Ham on Saturday in England's Premier League. Anelka celebrated his first goal with what appeared to be a controversial gesture known as the "quenelle."

The gesture popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala is considered "the Nazi salute in reverse" by Jewish groups in France, according to The Mirror. Dieudonne has reportedly claimed it is anti-Zionist but not anti-semitic.

“Anelka’s gesture is a shocking, disgusting provocation," Fourneyron wrote on Twitter, via BBC. "There is no place for anti-semitism and incitement to hatred on the football pitch.”

French soccer journalist Philippe Auclair provided some background on the gesture, including its origin as well as the possible interpretations.

This gesture, 'la quenelle', was invented by a comedian named Dieudonne, supposedly as an 'anti-establishment' statement. But...

— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) December 28, 2013

...it can also be read as an inversion of the Nazi salute, and has been the subject of an official complaint by anti-racist organisations.

— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) December 28, 2013

To use it at the moment is cretinous at best. Far worse than the finger aimed at MCFC fans by Wilshere, which was rightly punished.

— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) December 28, 2013

@Silent_canon It is a deeply offensive gesture in the current political context in France, especially to our Jewish community. Objectively.

— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) December 28, 2013

As referenced by Auclair, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was recently hit with a two-match ban from the Football Association, the governing body of English football, for giving Manchester City fans the middle finger.

When asked about Anelka's gesture after the match, West Brom manager Keith Downing denied that there was any ill intention behind it.

"But it’s nothing to do with what’s been said," said, via Goal.com. "He’s dedicated it to a French comedian who he knows very well. It was a gesture he uses in his act. The speculation can stop now. It’s absolute rubbish. He’s totally unaware of what the problems were."

Anelka eventually took to Twitter in his own defense, claiming the gesture was simply a tribute to Dieudonne.

This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonné

— nicolas anelka (@anelkaofficiel) December 28, 2013

As reported by Sky News, Dieudonne has been fined for hate speech on several occasions and run for political office as part of an "Anti-Zionist List."

If the FA does determine that Anelka's gesture is anti-semitic, the punishment doled out by FIFA against Croatia defender Josip Simunic may be a more relevant precedent than the relatively brief ban for Wilshere. Simunic will miss the 2014 World Cup after being banned 10 matches for celebrating Croatia's qualification with a pro-Nazi chant.

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