A Week In Football – Cup Exits, Transfer Rumours and Nicholas Anelka

Juan Mata signed for Manchester United from Chelsea. It’s the big story from last week, but the whole saga has had more than enough coverage, so what else went on?

With no Premier League action, attention was instead turned to the domestic cup competitions, neither of which will be won by Manchester United this year after Moyes’ side crashed out of the FA Cup after a humiliating penalty loss to relegation candidates Sunderland. Already out of the League Cup, and trailing desperately in the title chase, it was this failure that inspired the move for Mata. With top four a necessity, United can at least look forward to what should be a comfortable Champions League tie against Olympiakos. Other than the Sunderland defeat, the cup competitions threw up no other real giant killings, with Championship side Wigan’s dispatching of Crystal Palace the closest thing to an upset. It was more a case of business as usual, with victories for Chelsea, Liverpool and the rest of the big boys. Across the other side of Manchester, City continued their relentless demolition of everything in their path.

For those United fans hoping that Mata would be the first signing of many, Moyes has assured fans that he will be, just not until the summer. Baines has signed a new contract with Everton, Newcastle look determined to hold onto Cabaye, and Dante seems to just be using interest to leverage an improved contract with Bayern. There is good news for West Ham however, who have finally signed a striker. After missing out on Monaco’s Lacina Traore to Everton, the Hammers have captured Marco Borriello on loan from Roma. A reliable goal scorer, Borriello is just what West Ham have been crying out for, and the London club have also bolstered their midfield, bringing in another Italian, Antonio Nocerino. Liverpool have not had as much joy in the transfer market, missing out on exciting Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah to Chelsea, who continue to stockpile young players, despite never progressing them to the first team.

Another story that crept by unnoticed this week, overshadowed by Manchester United’s pursuit of Juan Mata is the on-going Anelka quenelle affair. The Frenchmen has been charged by the FA for his use of the gesture, but bafflingly is denying the charge and looks set to challenge any punishment. Anelka’s defence rests over his intentions. He claims that the quenelle gesture is not racist or anti-Semitic and that he did not think it would cause any offence; he was simply supporting his friend Dieudonné. The French comedian, like Anelka, insists that the quenelle, despite resembling an inverted Nazi salute is not anti-Semitic, but rather anti-Zionist, a differentiation without any real difference. The reason that Anelka felt compelled to support Dieudonné is because his act, which also contains a ‘funny’ song mocking the holocaust, is being repressed by the French government.

The reason why Anelka’s defence is so ridiculous is in the wording of the charge, which is for making a gesture that is “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper”, with “an aggravated breach in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief”. The case is similar to Suarez’ use of the word ‘negrito’ to Evra, like with Suarez, it does not matter if Anelka meant or intended to be racist, he has still made a gesture which he knew could be perceived as offensive and insulting and is specifically aimed at one ethnic and religious group. As a close friend of Dieudonné, Anelka knows that many people, in particular from the Jewish community have found the quenelle ‘insulting’, ‘abusive’ and ‘improper’, which is the reason why Dieudonné’s show is being repressed. That Anelka, West Brom, Keith Downing, Lukaku, and so many others continue to downplay, dismiss, or even defend the quenelle gesture is disgusting. The FA, who continue to drag their feet, need to quickly issue punishment as a real statement of intent that they are just as committed to battling discrimination against the Jewish community as every other ethnic community.