Anelka’s act of ‘defiance’ leaves sour taste for many people as FA steps in

West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka
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Nicolas Anelka is in the dock after his recent ‘quenelle’ gesture. Leon Wobschall looks at other controversial goal ‘celebrations’.

GOAL celebrations are part of the vibrant tapestry of modern football and positively enrich it on occasion. Part of the all-singing, all-dancing ‘match-day’ experience and all that.

Failing that, just a break from the humdrum and occasion for a spot of mirth in a dour mud-splattered spectacle. A touch of light relief, innocent tomfoolery, something imitated by both kids and park players across the land.

We’ve had the job lot over the past few decades. The Robot, The Dentist’s Chair and The Golf Swing. And countless more ...

But then you have the occasional dark episodes when sensitivity lines are crossed. Make that trashed.

Which brings us to The Anelka.Something which masqueraded as a celebration, but was plainly self-indulgent. Far more seriously, it was offensive – to the Jewish community in this instance.

Anelka is facing a lengthy ban after being charged by the FA with making an improper gesture over his ‘quenelle’ celebration after netting in West Brom’s televised game at West Ham.

It has gained considerable notoriety in France after its use by French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala. Now the word has entered the English lexicon.

Anelka’s actions were said to be dedicated to his ‘comic’ friend, convicted of anti-semitism.

The Baggies forward, who has until 6pm today to respond to the charge, says his act was an anti-establishment symbol of defiance and nothing to do with anti-semitism.

But there are plenty of others in his homeland who beg to differ and have suggested it incites racial hatred.

You suspect sections of the estimated 195,000 Jewish population in London, where the game took place, may be feeling the same.

West Brom’s main sponsors Zoopla – part owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman – have already had their say, deciding to terminate their £3m sponsorship deal at the end of the season.

Moral furores regarding goal celebrations aren’t exclusively restricted to Anelka’s actions, which at best can be deemed as naive.

Back in November 2008, Leeds United midfielder David Norris, then a player at Ipswich Town, hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons following an infamous ‘handcuff’ gesture after scoring in a game at Blackpool in support of his friend and former Plymouth team-mate Luke McCormick, sentenced the previous month to seven years in jail for causing the death of two young boys by dangerous driving.

A club disciplinary charge followed, although the far more serious crime represented deeply offending a grieving family, who promptly revealed their disgust at such a disrespectful act.

Former Leeds and Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler was also in the dock, if you pardon the pun, for displaying a T-shirt in support of striking dockers after netting in a Uefa Cup game for the Reds in November 1997.

A year-and-a-half later, he was then charged with bringing the game into disrepute after celebrating a goal in front of Everton supporters, also at Anfield, by simulating cocaine use following false allegations from Blues supporters. The net result was a hefty five-figure fine from his club and the authorities and a four-match ban.

After the second incident involving Fowler, celebrations became more subject to regulation, with the authorities taking steps to stamp out excessive goal celebrations with players now booked for removing their shirts, jumping over perimeter fences or provoking sections of the crowd.

Sometimes at the cost of common sense, thankfully displayed back in November 2011 by referee Darren Deadman, who elected not to book Doncaster Rovers striker Billy Sharp following a touching goal celebration after he opened the scoring in the 3-1 home loss to Middlesbrough.

Sharp, who bravely elected to play just days after the tragic death of his two-day-old son Luey Jacob, revealed a T-shirt with the slogan: ‘That’s for you, son’ after scoring, with the Boro contingent among those who applauded the goal and Deadman admirably showing some restraint – something former Leeds captain Mark Aizlewood could have done with at the end of the 1988-89 campaign, although the club were swift to mete out their own punishment.

After scoring a winner in front of the Kop late on in a dead-rubber Division Two game against Walsall, the fiery Welshman infamously entered club folklore when he committed the cardinal sin of angrily flashing a double V-sign at the crowd, after receiving some stick.

It was effectively his last act as a United player in front of incredulous supporters. He was quickly substituted by Howard Wilkinson and sold to Bradford City in time for next season.

Short history of controversial ‘celebrations’

March 2013: AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis is fined 50,000 Euros and banned from playing for AEK for the rest of the 2012-13 season after making a Nazi salute following his winning goal against Veria. He is also given a lifetime ban from representing Greece.

November 2008: Current Leeds United midfielder David Norris receives a club fine after making a ‘handcuff’ gesture in support of his former Plymouth team-mate Luke McCormick after scoring for Ipswich at Blackpool. McCormick was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail that October after causing the deaths of brothers Aaron Peak, 10 and Ben Peak, eight, in a car accident while he was twice over the drink-drive limit.

April 1999: Former Liverpool and Leeds striker Robbie Fowler is fined £60,000 by the Reds and the Premier League for bringing the game into disrepute after simulating cocaine use in front of Everton supporters in the Merseyside derby at Anfield following false allegiations of drug abuse. He also received a four-match ban from the FA.

March 1997: In a previous incident, Fowler was fined $1,400 by European governing body UEFA for displaying a T-shirt in support for sacked dock workers after scoring during a European Cup Winners’ Cup match against SK Brann Bergen.

JUNE 1996: England midfielder Paul Gascoigne performed his famous “Dentist’s Chair” goal celebration after netting in the 2-0 Euro 1996 victory over arch-rivals Scotland. The prank followed the Geordie being pictured having spirits poured down his throat in a bar during a drinking game in Hong Kong in the run-up to the tournament. In 2010, English bars were banned from giving customers a “dentist’s chair” under laws to curb binge-drinking.