Nicolas Anelka Causes Controversy with Gesture After Goal vs. West Ham

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Nicolas Anelka Causes Controversy with Gesture After Goal vs. West Ham
Getty Images/Christopher Lee

Updates From Wednesday, Jan. 15:

Kick It Out released a statement on Wednesday, questioning the response of the FA regarding the ongoing investigation into Nicolas Anelka's 'quenelle' gesture.

The gesture is viewed by some as an anti-establishment symbol, and can also be understood as a nod to the Nazi salute. Kick it Out stated:

Following a gesture made by West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka during their game against West Ham United at Upton Park on 28 December, an allegation of antisemitism was reported by Kick It Out and partner organisations immediately with The Football Association (FA) announcing that it would instigate an investigation.

Since then, in spite of requests from Kick It Out for information about the progress of the investigation, there has been total silence from The FA until Friday 10 January. The FA then stated that an appointed expert was aiding this investigation and there would be no further update until Monday 20 January at the earliest.

While an investigation is being undertaken, it is protocol for Kick It Out not to comment on matters which might prejudice the outcome and be unfair to any party or individual involved in this process.

Kick It Out, like others, is very frustrated at the length of time taken to investigate this issue and, as usual, has taken criticism, particularly from community organisations, who feel deeply and rightly aggrieved by the gesture and want to know why the campaign has not made more of a public condemnatory statement of Anelka's actions.

While Kick It Out can and is prepared to be condemnatory, where it is appropriate, it strives to ensure that it works to counter the prejudices which lead to discrimination and hatred. The campaign will certainly make known its comments on this case at the conclusion of The FA's investigation.

---End of Update---

 

Updates From Friday, Jan. 10:

The FA has commented on Anelka's gesture:

The FA can confirm that its investigation into Nicolas Anelka remains ongoing.

We are working with an appointed expert regarding the salient issues related to the 'quenelle' gesture.

Whilst this work continues as quickly as possible, there will be no further update until Monday 20 January at the earliest.

The FA will be making no further comment at this time.

---End of Update---

Updates from Monday, Dec. 30:

West Brom released the following statement on Nicolas Anelka's gesture:

“Nicolas was asked to explain his goal celebration by Caretaker Head Coach, Keith Downing, within minutes of the game finishing at West Ham. Nicolas said that he performed the gesture to dedicate his goal to a friend and vehemently denied having any intention to cause offence.

“Upon reporting for training this morning, Nicolas was asked by Sporting & Technical Director Richard Garlick to give a full explanation about his goal celebration, during which he again strongly denied intending to cause offence.

“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.

“The Club is aware that The Football Association is investigating the matter and has offered its full co-operation. The Club will continue to make its own enquiries – a process which will remain confidential between the Club and Nicolas.

“Nicolas is eligible for matches whilst The FA carries out its investigation. Therefore, Nicolas will remain under consideration for first-team selection whilst The FA and Club continue their enquiries.”

Anelka preivously said he "totally backs" the gesture he produced during West Brom's weekend draw with West Ham, which has been accused of being anti-Semitic and racist.

Anelka released a statement to explain his goal celebration, but remains in danger of a lengthy ban. Sky Sports provides the Frenchman's explanation:

The meaning of the gesture: anti-establishment. I don't know how religion has become a part of this story. This quenelle is dedicated to Dieudonne. 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.

I would ask people not to be fooled by the media. And of course, I am neither anti-Semitic nor racist and I totally back my gesture.

However, Laurie Whitwell of the Daily Mail reports that Anelka faces a lengthy ban for his controversial gesture:

Nicolas Anelka faces a minimum five-match ban from the FA after producing a goal celebration branded ‘disgusting’ and ‘clearly anti-Semitic’.

The West Bromwich Albion striker is set to become the first player sanctioned under rules brought in by English football’s governing body in May to combat racist behaviour.

Updates from Saturday, Dec. 28

Anelka could very well have resurrected his fading career with a two-goal performance against West Ham United on Dec. 28, but the manner in which he celebrated is what has everyone talking.

Following the 34-year-old veteran's first goal of the match in the 40th minute, he performed a gesture that French soccer analyst Philippe Auclair deemed controversial.

According to Auclair, the gesture which featured Anelka touching his right arm with his left hand, is viewed by some as anti-establishment symbol, but it can also be deciphered as a nod to the Nazi salute.

Anelka's choice of celebration remains questionable to say the least. Prejudice has run rampant throughout the sport of soccer in Europe especially, so Anelka had to realize that he would be put under the microscope.

Photo courtesy of 101GreatGoals.com
Anelka gesturing with Dieudonne as well as celebrating his goal

There is no question that he'll be bombarded with inquiries about the gesture, and it will be interesting to see how he explains it. Even if Anelka claims ignorance, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Football Association take some form of action.

West Brom caretaker manager Keith Downing dismissed the suggestion that the gesture had racial undertones, according to goal.com:

When asked for a comment on the accusations, Downing replied: "I’m aware of it.

"But it’s nothing to do with what’s been said. He’s dedicated it to a French comedian who he knows very well. It was a gesture he uses in his act.

"The speculation can stop now. It’s absolute rubbish. He’s totally unaware of what the problems were."

Anelka responded to the critics on Twitter:

The French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron blasted the gesture on Twitter (translation courtesy of Tom Williams of AFP):

The Telegraph brings us a good analysis of why the gesture is seen as offensive by so many:

The gesture is known as the ‘Quenelle,’ labelled as a reversed Nazi salute and made famous a few years ago by the controversial Dieudonné, a French comedian from African background.

In the last few years, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, his full name, has become an anti-Semitic activist and campaigner.

Dieudonné used the Quenelle for the first time in 2009 when he was a candidate for the European elections at the helm of his own party, the anti-Zionist party, despite arguing that it was a generic anti-establishment symbol.

Lost in the controversy of Anelka's celebration is the fact that he made history by scoring for West Brom. According to Infostrada Sports, Anelka scored for his sixth different EPL team when he beat West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jasskelainen.

Anelka's two goals were his first two of the season in just his eighth appearance. Despite his struggles this year, West Brom boss Keith Downing claimed that Anelka could be a key contributor moving forward, according to Sky Sports, and he proved to be prophetic.

"He's preparing for the two games and bearing in mind he's nearer the end of his career, in his mid-thirties, you've got to respect that," Downing said.

"We're doing that and he'll have some sort of important part to play in the next couple of games."

Unfortunately for West Brom and their fans, Anelka's status is now quite uncertain moving forward. It's entirely possible that this was all a big misunderstanding, but there is no doubt that the incident will be investigated thoroughly in order to ensure that prejudice behavior is eliminated from the sport.

 

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