Hey, remember when Nicolas Anelka performed a quenelle gesture back in December? Apparently the ripples from The Gesture that Shook the Midlands™ haven't fully settled yet. Today the Football Association announced that erstwhile Tottenham Hotspur left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto has been banned for three matches by the FA for sending a tweet to Anelka "congratulating" him after the quenelle incident waaaaaaay back in December of 2013.
As part of his punishment, Benny was also fined £50,000, put on notice about future conduct, and is to take a "compulsory education course." Assou-Ekotto has, of course, denied his role in the controversy.
The FA explained the decision thusly:
Even though we have found that there was an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 we are satisfied that when the Player sent the tweet on the 28th December 2013 congratulating Anelka, in his mind he believed he was congratulating Anelka on what he perceived to be an anti-establishment gesture as opposed to one associated with anti-Semitism.
But we are also satisfied of two further factors relevant to his culpability:
- That he was certainly aware before he sent the tweet that the quenelle gesture was very much associated with Dieudonne; and
- That he had, by then, acquired at least some knowledge of the controversies surrounding Dieudonne in the Autumn of 2013 and that these had included, rightly or wrongly, allegations concerning anti-Semitism.
I am not in any way defending Benny, Anelka, the quenelle gesture, or any of that. The whole thing reeks of racism and anti-semitism and it has no place in modern football. Depending on how you feel about the quenelle gesture, it's either a benign symbol of French secularism or a tacit approval of the anti-semitic views of Dieudonné M'bala M'bala. Either way, it was a stupid thing to Anelka to do. Likewise, it was stupid of Benny to get involved in any way. The whole thing is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
But what's most ironic about today's ruling is that not only did it take the FA ten months to come to this conclusion, it affects a Tottenham player who is no longer training with the team, doesn't have a squad number, is essentially wasting away the remainder of his contract somewhere in France, and will likely land with a new team next season on the continent where the FA has no jurisdiction. Anelka himself is already long gone from England and is now playing for Mumbai City in the Indian Super League. Also, it's quite likely that Benny doesn't give a crap about this punishment either way. Oh no, he doesn't get to play football for three games, which is TOTALLY different than the not-playing-football he's doing now.
As Benny would say, LOL. Good job, FA, good effort.