By Daniel Lindley
It is still unknown what – if any – punishment West Brom striker Nicholas Anelka will be handed for his ‘quenelle’ gesture after scoring against West Ham last December. He has appealed the Football Association’s charge, and the hearing is not due till the end of the month due to the FA taking unusually careful consideration of the issue.
A lengthy ban in March could prove fatal for West Brom’s season. Although he’s only scored two goals since joining the club last summer, the presence of such a renowned player in a Baggies shirt has noticeably helped rouse the crowd at games. He’s seen as a positive influence on the training ground, passing on experience and skills to the younger strikers and establishing a partnership with the 20 year old Saido Berahino. With West Brom outside the relegation zone only by goal difference, losing Anelka might just tip them into the abyss.
But more importantly, does Anelka deserve a ban? Whilst he insists his gesture was not antisemitic and was merely a show of support for his friend Dieudonné M’bala; it’s hard to disregard that Dieudonné has been convicted numerous times for antisemitic hate speech in France, or that the quenelle looks suspiciously like an inverted Nazi salute. Only a week before the West Ham game Dieudonné was in trouble for suggesting to a Jewish journalist that it’s a ‘shame’ gas chambers no longer exist.
Whilst Anelka may not understand this and may believe he’s merely being anti-establishment, the quenelle belongs to a long European tradition of associating Jewish people with sinister power. This is what the Austrian socialist Ferdinand Kronawetter meant when he called antisemitism the ‘socialism of idiots’. It takes justified feelings that society is run for the benefit of a small number of powerful people to everyone else’s detriment , but then misdirects this towards irrational prejudice and conspiracy theories which only distract people from combating the very establishment they profess to oppose.With West Brom improving somewhat under new manager Pepe Mel, they ought to prepare to keep picking up points without their most famous player.