Nicolas Anelka scored two first half goals in his side’s 3-3 draw with West Ham at the Boleyn Ground in the early kickoff on Saturday. However, the headlines tomorrow will not be of the game nor the player’s performance, but more his gesture after scoring the first half equalizer. Now anyone who has followed Anelka’s career will understand he has had numerous run-ins with authorities including a ban from the French National team. He has also been called “Le Sulk” due to the moody way his demeanor on and off the field sometimes suggests.
His career so far has included forcing a move to Real Madrid from Arsenal by threatening not to play for the remaining year of his contract. At Real Madrid, he was suspended for 45 days without pay for refusing to train and eventually found himself back in England and in Liverpool colors on loan with the option to buy. Arguments from then-manager Gerard Houllier aimed at his brothers, who were marketing him around to other clubs, so in the end, Liverpool signed El Hadji Diouf instead.
Anelka moved on to Chelsea where he butted heads with Israeli coach Avram Grant in the Champions League Final. In 2010, he was sent home by France in the World Cup after a bust up with the coach, failing to train and then refusing to apologize. These are all stupid issues, but I am not sure they constitute a history of anti-Semitic behavior from the Frenchman.
Anelka did convert to Islam in 2004, but he himself admits he is not all in, by that I mean not strictly following the requirements for the month of Ramadan. Due to the constraints on the body and his requirements during matches and on the training ground, the beliefs do not combine for a healthy player. So when the social media became ablaze after the game with pictures of the gesture, it was bizarre to me and certainly ratchets up the dislike for this guy in the mainstream.
This particular gesture called the Quenelle was started by French stand-up comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, some claim it is anti establishment while others claim anti-Semitic. Certainly with the hand out stretched it could certainly pass as an inverted Nazi salute, and with the hand over the bicep that could be a combination of the inverted Nazi salute and the Bras d’honneur gesture, which is known in the USA as The Arm or Italian Salute.
Certainly the best-case scenario is that Anelka doesn’t fully understand the controversy surrounding his comedian friend’s salute. However, the controversy the gesture has already sparked in France, along with a previous encounter of the two doing the salute, would suggest that he has gone too far this time. With Jack Wilshire getting a two-game ban for an abusive gesture, then what for a gesture of this nature? It will certainly be interesting to see what the Football Association, committed to stamping out racism, homophobia and alike, will do with this latest controversy.
Jason Bardwell is a Soccer writer for Rant Sport. You can follow him on Twitter @PACityboy or on www.facebook.com/jasonbardwell1979.