French footballer Nicolas Anelka has courted fresh controversy in France, saying Prime Minister Manuel Valls moved to ban shows by the inflammatory comic Dieudonné in January under pressure from his Jewish wife.
Several of Dieudonné’s scheduled stand-up shows were cancelled by local authorities on the grounds they featured anti-Semitic remarks.
Valls, at the time France’s interior minister, said his routines had gone past the limits of artistic expression and posed a risk to public safety.
Anelka, 35, told newspaper Metronews on Friday that Dieudonné was “like a brother” to him, but that he did not hold a grudge against Valls for taking an aggressive stance against the controversial comic.
“He’s not so bad,” Anelka said of Valls, who was appointed France’s prime minister this week. “I think he was probably under pressure from his wife [Anne Gravoin] in the quenelle affair.”
“I hope he will put as much energy into fixing the country as he did in fighting Dieudonné,” Anelka added.
Admits gesture is 'vulgar'
The French footballer added that by the logic applied to describing the quenelle as a racist gesture, then "all priests are paedophiles and all Muslims are terrorists".
However, Anelka did accept that the gesture was “vulgar”.
The footballer was banned for five matches by England’s Football Association for brandishing a “quenelle” – a gesture invented by Dieudonné and described as an inverted Nazi salute – after scoring a goal against West Ham on December 28.
He was then sacked by West Bromwich Albion in March for “gross misconduct.”
Anelka, who has sparked controversy on and off the field in the past, insisted he was neither a racist nor an anti-Semite. In the interview he argued that quenelle was not an inappropriate gesture unless it was done outside a synagogue.
Date created : 2014-04-04