French soccer player celebrates with possible anti-Semitic insult

French striker Nicolas Anelka gestures as he celebrates scoring a goal at The Boleyn Ground, Upton Park in east London on Dec. 28, 2013.
Ian Kington

French soccer player Nicolas Anelka appeared to make a new anti-Semitic gesture after scoring a goal on Saturday, a day after French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said he may seek to ban shows of the comedian who popularized the "Nazi salute in reverse."

Keith Downing, Anelka's coach, came to the striker's defense after the game, saying his player made a gesture for a friend, and that Anelka was "totally surprised" by negative reaction against his celebration.

"It has got nothing to do what is being said. It is absolute rubbish," Downing said, according to the BBC. "It is dedicated to a French comedian he knows very, very well."

"He is totally unaware of what the problems were or the speculation that has been thrown around, he is totally surprised by it," Downing added, though if Anelka is called on to explain his actions, it may not matter if he was aware of the possible implications of the gesture. The striker could be suspened.

The gesture has become increasingly popular in France, and is considered to have originated from the live show of Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, a comedian who has multiple times been fined for hate speech.

"Dieudonne M'bala M'bala doesn't seem to recognize any limits any more," Valls said in a statement on Friday. "From one comment to the next, as he has shown in several television shows, he attacks the memory of Holocaust victims in an obvious and unbearable way."

Dieudonne has said his gesture is not meant as a reverse Nazi salute. Instead the move, known as "la quenelle," which means fish dumpling, stands for his anti-Zionist position. Jewish groups have disagreed and voiced their disapproval to President Francois Hollande.