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Volume 6 No. 217

International Football

EPL West Brom said that French striker Nicolas Anelka will be available to play for the club "while the FA investigates his alleged anti-Semitic goal celebration during Saturday’s 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham," according to Mike Collett of REUTERS. Anelka celebrated the first of his two goals with an apparent "quenelle" hand signal, made famous by French comedian Dieudonné, which is linked to anti-Semitism. Anelka's celebration sparked a controversy "which totally overshadowed his performance and his first two goals for West Brom in a thrilling match at Upton Park." Few English fans at the ground would have even noticed the gesture "but the match was televised live in France where viewers immediately understood its connotations, including France Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron" (REUTERS, 12/30). The PA reported a statement released by West Brom said that Anelka "has agreed not to perform his controversial quenelle goal celebration again." West Brom said that they "accept the celebration has caused some offence and that Anelka has been asked to refrain from doing it again" -- and that he has agreed to do so. A club statement said, "The club fully acknowledges that Nicolas' goal celebration has caused offence in some quarters and has asked Nicolas not to perform the gesture again. Nicolas immediately agreed to adhere to this request" (PA, 12/30).

OTHERS INVOLVED? The London TELEGRAPH reported photographs have emerged of Man City midfielder Samir Nasri and Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho "performing the same controversial" quenelle gesture used by Anelka during a goal celebration on Saturday. The gesture can be interpreted as anti-Semitic, but Anelka insisted that "it was merely a tribute to his friend," Dieudonné, that had been misinterpreted. Anelka said, "(The) meaning of quenelle: anti-system. I do not know what the word 'religion' has to do with this story! This is a dedication to Dieudonné. With regard to the ministers who give their own interpretations of my quenelle, they are the ones that create confusion and controversy without knowing what it really means, this gesture. I ask people not to be duped by the media. And of course, I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic and I fully assume (stand by) my gesture" (TELEGRAPH, 12/30).

Football managers from Saudi Arabia, Italy and England said on Sunday at the eighth Dubai Int'l Sports Conference that "the rise of Asian football to global significance was irreversible and that East and West would benefit from it," according to XINHUA. The two-day sports conference held under the theme "empowering the future of football" shed a light on upcoming trends in global football. Dr. Hafez Al-Medlej, exec committee member of the Asian Football Confederation and responsible for the association's marketing, said in his presentation that "with Qatar having won the bid to host the World Cup in 2022, Asian football would get a new push towards the global stage after Japan and South Korea co-hosted the World Cup" in '02. AC Milan Dir Umberto Gandini said that "neither the European football clubs nor the sponsors shall have to fear the rise of Asia as a top football region." Gandini: "Asia has a huge population, hence we in Europe should continue to reach out and co-operate by playing friendly matches and through participating at club championships in Asian countries" (XINHUA, 12/30).

A-League clubs could "soon be punished for the actions of their fans, with Football Federation Australia exploring the prospect of deducting competition points from clubs whose supporters repeatedly misbehave" as part of its crackdown on anti-social fan behavior, according to Dominic Bossi of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. After a "public brawl" in Melbourne's Central Business District on Saturday, "the FFA is preparing to adopt the most severe measures in its power in an attempt to ensure there is no repeat." A-League President Damien De Bohun confirmed that "proposed strict penalties with an effect on results remained a real possibility as a means to deter negative fan behaviour and, if implemented, could come into effect within a matter of weeks." If "effected, the proposed punishment on clubs will not be popular among fans." The FFA, however, "has lost patience with the small minority of supporters that continue to light flares and attract unwanted attention" (SMH, 12/31).

Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu stadium on Monday hosted a "Champions for life" charity game at 7pm, according to Diego Martín of AS. The event was held by the Spanish Football League (LFP) in conjunction with UNICEF to "raise funds for those affected by the typhoon that hit the Philippines in November." The game featured a number of players including Sergio Ramos and Álvaro Morata of Real Madrid and Raúl García of Atlético Madrid, among others. The players were split into East and West teams based on the location of the club teams they represent. Former Spanish footballer Vicente Miera said, "The Champions for Life game is a great way for people to go to the Santiago Bernabéu to raise funds for UNICEF" (AS, 12/30).