Head first into the world of the absurd
Racism should not be condoned in any form, but the overreaction to Anelka's 'quenelle' makes a mockery of common sense
The saga over Nicolas Anelka's "quenelle" gesture - made during his goal celebration in the 3-3 draw against West Ham on December 28 - tipped the EPL into the world of the absurd this week.
The Football Association had to call in an "appointed expert" to judge what his obscure - and hitherto unknown - gesture meant and, once deciphered, whether it fell afoul of its racism laws.
The former French international called in his own expert - a leading Jewish intellectual - who said the sign was not an anti-Semite "inverted Nazi salute", as some claimed, but was, as the player insisted, an anti-establishment expression.
Anelka said on Twitter: "I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic. The meaning of quenelle is anti-system. I do not know what religion has to do with this story."
After much dithering and delay, which attracted wide criticism, the FA finally ruled Anelka, who deems himself a member of an ethnic minority, was guilty of racism and faces a minimum five-match ban.
The player has pleaded not guilty and now the bizarre case will be drawn out in a public showdown with the alleged offending gesture replayed to death and the sorry tale dragged over the coals and back again.
If the quenelle and its users were looking for infamy, they have surely found it in the mad house that is the EPL and the domestic staff that help run it, the FA.
Few, least of all this column, condone any form of racism in football. But the overreaction and indecision over Anelka's goal celebration by an elite few has made a mockery of common sensibility and the laws governing proper sporting behaviour.
Most fans gave their own gesture as the non-issue turned into a farce with a loud slap of the forehead.
Given the week's journey into the surreal, if not into the preposterous, should we now scrutinise all silly hand signs made by players during goal celebrations?
What about the hand gesture made by Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere in the game against Aston Villa on January 14, which Arsenal won 2-1?
The player inverted the fore and index fingers of his left hand and crossed these two digits with the forefinger of his right to make an "A"; a photo of the hand signal was published.
To the sane, this emblematic gesture is merely shorthand for "Arsenal". But whose to say the sign does not have a deeper, darker meaning for others?
In these strange times, seemingly peppered with the codes and signals of secret societies, the imagination and conspiracy theories run riot.
Could it be that Wilshere was signalling his unwitting support to the global brotherhood of the socially inept, those who threaten sports fans with the deadly boring?
Was his "A" the sign for "Anoraks" - the British-English term for nerds and geeks?
What if the "A" was in support of this sect, which if it seized power would ban football and doom us all to compulsory weekends of "how to" classes in domestic book-keeping, train-spotting, computer programming, stamp collecting, decorating ornamental ceramic figurines, silk embroidery classes and other extremely mundane hobbies and tedious pastimes?
Sounds ridiculous, but if enough of us were to complain they found Wilshere's sign to be offensive - even if they were unsure of its true meaning - the FA, having now set a precedent with Anelka, would be forced to launch an investigation.
Anelka's goal celebration left the FA floundering.
The game's governing body eventually caved into the elitist liberal intelligentsia and their hypocritical illiberal intolerance to anything that does not adhere to their cosseted, sanitised world and control doctrine.
In their eyes, we fans cannot decide for ourselves when it comes to the big "did he/didn't he make a racist insult" debate; we must be instructed on how to view a strange, esoteric goal celebration even if we don't know what it is or don't care even if we did due to its dimness and insignificance.
No matter that charging Anelka and banning his cryptic gesture will merely generate more headlines.
Nor does it matter that making an issue of this non-issue has afford the quenelle movement and those who believe in it - whatever it is and whoever they are - a publicity oxygen boon and a PR platform they thought never possible let alone enjoy for free.
Yet this rationale and factually correct argument holds no sway with those who believe they know better.
The self-appointed champions of liberty believe they are saving us fans from ourselves. Yet it often seems they are actually eroding the very cornerstone of freedom they claim to persevere.
Individual expression is allowed, goes their mantra - but only in ever smaller parameters they set.
As mentioned, a nameless expert was called in by the FA to make up its and its lawyers' minds as to Anelka's true foreboding and whether charges should be laid against him.
The sanctimonious sponsors of West Brom waded in.
They made a contrived stand by withdrawing their lucrative contracts, and in doing so took away the moral high ground from the sport's governing body.
Politically correct madness has become madder still in the EPL. While they are at it, should the FA retrospectively investigate Gareth Bale's heart-shape sign? I am not sure what it means, but it's bound to have caused offence to someone, somewhere.
Seriously, the FA has more pressing concerns regarding its and the game's credibility than a public showdown with egoists making silly signs.