Nicolas Anelka, eternal enfant terrible, in trouble yet again. This time for making an allegedly anti semitic and surely gratuitous gesture after scoring for West Bromwich Albion at West Ham. The gesture, known in France as la quenelle, consisted of straightening his right arm while clutching his right hand bicep with his left hand. A gesture initiated by a comedian called Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who is a friend of Anelka.
Described as a Nazi salute in reverse it has anti semitic implications, but Anelka, who became an Islamic convert in 2004, insisted it was merely an acknowledgement of Dieudonne.
Valerie Fourneyron the French Minister for sport described it as “a shocking provocation” deploring anti Semitism and stirring up hatred on the football pitch.
Unfortunately for Anelka the match unusually was on live television in France where there was no football programme that day. Only a day earlier Manuel Valls, the French Minister of the Interior, had threatened to ban Dieudonne from performing.
And so, in the chequered but intermittently glittering career of the now veteran 34-year-old Anelka, it goes on. Just as it has when he was a precocious goal scoring teenager with the Paris Saint Germain club. Incensed by the fact that two much older star strikers were being preferred to him, he elected to cross the Channel to join Arsenal, who grabbed him for nothing, the paradoxical ruling of the time in French football meaning that he was still too young at 17 to command a fee. In due course the Gunners pocketed a massive transfer fee when they sold him to Real Madrid, throwing PSG a mere £50,000 token consolation.
At Arsenal, Anelka, for all his coruscating talent, all his goals, had been a constantly defiant rebel. This had much to do with the fact that he was accompanied by his two agent brothers, blamed for making the bullets for him constantly to fire. Endless complaints included one that his two Dutch international teammates Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars were starving him of the ball. Another that the press was biased against him allegedly praising Arsenal if they won without him, ignoring him if he returned with a volley of goals.
Things went no better at Real Madrid where one soon found him refusing to turn up for training. Of his talents there was still no doubt. One remembers a superb display in 1999 for France versus England at Wembley when in a 2-0 win he scored twice and had a perfectly good goal disallowed for a phantom offside. But he subsequently would refuse to play for France and had a long spell out of the national team. Meanwhile he wandered from club to European club, eventually having spells back in England with Liverpool and Chelsea who used him on the wing, missing a European Cup Final shootout penalty.
He disgraced himself in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa when, back in the French team, he viciously abused the much criticised French manager Raymond Domenech over a half time substitution versus Morocco and was packing off defiantly and furiously home, to be suspended for the next 18 matches to which he responded. “I am killing myself laughing.”
“Plus ca change,” as the French say.