The Football Association (FA) is to investigate an alleged anti-Semitic gesture made by West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka during Saturday’s 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham United.
An FA spokesman said his organization would be launching a probe after Anelka’s actions provoked widespread criticism.
The former France striker celebrated the first of his two goals against West Ham with an apparent quenelle hand signal, made famous by French comedian Dieudonne, which is linked to anti-Semitism.
“Anelka’s gesture is a shocking provocation, disgusting,” French Minister of Sports Valerie Fourneyron said on Twitter. “There’s no place for anti-Semitism on the football field.”
The former Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain striker tried to play down the incident.
“This gesture was a special dedication to my friend Dieudonne,” Anelka said on Twitter.
The 34-year-old was backed by West Brom caretaker coach Keith Downing.
“It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well,” Downing said. “I think speculation can be stopped now, it is absolute rubbish really. He is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around, he is totally surprised by it.”
The Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign group issued a statement on the Upton Park incident.
“The campaign is in contact with partners in England and France regarding this matter and has offered its support to the Football Association in any forthcoming investigation,” it said.
Anelka’s two goals were his first for 15th-placed West Brom, the club he joined as a free agent in the off-season after a loan spell with Juventus ended.
Albion are the sixth Premier League club the veteran striker has represented in his career.