The saga involving Nicolas Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ gesture was finally put to rest today after he was banned for five matches along with a £80,000 fine. The Frenchman performed the gesture after scoring West Brom’s first goal against West Ham on the 28th December 2013, he has repeatedly stated that he only carried out the ‘quenelle’ because he wanted to show his support for controversial French comedian, M’bala M’bala Dieudonne. The gesture is widely renowned as being both anti-Semitic and anti-establishment. But why did Anelka have to be banned by the FA when the striker has repeatedly denied being racist.
I’ll start by saying that I believe Anelka is NOT anti-semitic but has been completely irresponsible in his goal celebration. There was no point in him performing this gesture at the back-end of his career to show that he was racist, surely if he was anti-Semitic he would have made the gesture a lot earlier in his career? The fact that he tweeted that he did it to show his support of a close friend straight after the game against West Ham shows how determined he was to avoid controversy and make sure the truth was put across to his many followers. Anelka seems very close to his friend Dieudonne, therefore would naturally always be a huge supporter of him, scoring and celebrating a goal in a televised game in the Premier League is the perfect oppurtunity for Anelka showing that fateful support. Furthermore, in the Frenchman’s abnormally long career, he has had no history of Antisemitism to his name.
It seems inconceivable that Anelka was unaware of the possible implications performing the gesture might have because of the huge amount of experience that he possesses along with the simple fact that the ‘quenelle’ is widely known in his home country, France. This controversy will not effect just himself, West Brom’s biggest ever sponsorship deal to date with Zoopla is set to end by the conclusion of the season because of Albion’s insistence on playing Anelka.
This irresponsibility is one of the main reasons for why Anelka is CORRECT to have been punished by the FA. Whether you mean the connotations of any controversial gesture or not, people will still conceive ideas that you support what the gesture stands for. For instance, I know that I am not a supporter of Nazi ideologies, but if I performed a Nazi salute in the middle of a busy city, people would be right to react angrily towards me. This is the equivalent to Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ gesture, to implement it in a football game which is being watched by millions around the world is ridiculous and does not constitute how a role-model like a professional footballer should act in front of their fans.
Finally, another important reason is that because John Terry and Luis Suarez were both suspended and fined for their alleged racist behaviour, Anelka, guilty or not should also be punished equally. It has never been admitted by Terry or Suarez that they are indeed racist. Terry in the Anton Ferdinand debacle only condemned the bad language he used on the pitch while Suarez cited that his use of the word ‘negro’ is used differently in his native Uruguay. These are the exact equivalent to Anelka’s case because the striker angrily denied claims that he is racist and only performed the gesture in support of his friend. If the FA did not take action against him, there would have rightly been many questions asked. Consistency is key.