Greek footballer's Nazi salute: Katidis is probably not a fascist. But he is certainly an idiot

The player's insistence that he did not know the meaning of the gesture seems ridiculous

Share
Related Topics

“I am not a fascist” said Giorgos Katidis following the outrage which greeted his controversial goal celebration last weekend.

Having scored a late winner for his side AEK Athens, Katidis wheeled away, ripped off his shirt and raised his right arm in the manner of the infamous Hitlergruß. The whole thing lasted only a few seconds, but it sparked a wave of disapproval and disgust across Europe, and earned the 20 year old Katidis a lifetime ban from representing his country.

Katidis' defence may seem a little threadbare. After all, not being a fascist does not excuse using a fascist gesture in a moment of euphoria. Just as the fact that John Terry has friends of varied ethnicities does not excuse him from using racist terminology on the football field. The Greek player's insistence that he did not know the meaning of the gesture, moreover, seems even more ridiculous. Nazism and the Holocaust remain, for good reason, among the most widely discussed historical subjects in modern society. On the day in question, indeed, Greece was marking the 70 anniversary of the beginning of transportation of Greek Jews by the Nazis.

And yet, we should not be too quick to label Katidis as a raving fascist. As current German President Joachim Gauck found out to his embarrassment at the Olympics, the Hitlergruß is very easy to imitate without noticing that one is doing so. It involves, after all, little more than the raising of an arm, which is a common enough reflex in goal celebrations. A few more degrees, and Katidis would have gone from Nazi apologist to Alan Shearer impersonator.

Katidis, of course, was not caught at the wrong moment like Gauck. His “salute” was a lot more defined. He stopped running, stood up straight in somewhat military fashion, and jabbed the offending arm into the air. Pointing at a team mate he may have been (though what that team mate was doing in the stands behind the goal, you will have to ask a Greek football expert), but it certainly looked like the Hitlergruß. To make that gesture as a political statement on a day of Holocaust remembrance though, is still one step beyond making it because you fail to understand its significance. Katidis is probably not a fascist. But he is certainly an idiot.

That is what his manager Ewald Lienen was getting at when he said that Katidis “has no idea about politics, so we shouldn't condemn him”. Lienen is a better judge than most when it comes to the line between sport and politics. He stood for regional elections as part of the left wing group Die Friedensliste in the 1980s, and was known as one of Germany's most politically active footballers.

Indeed, in all the outrage and accusations surrounding this bizarre case, it is Lienen who offers the most reasonable contribution. He was unforgiving but understanding in his judgement on Katidis: “The boy has acted very very stupidly and immaturely,” he said, “it's essentially unforgiveable, particularly at a club like AEK with anti-fascist roots. I don't think he's got much of a chance here anymore”.

And so it is. Katidis is not a fascist. Whether he really knew what he was doing or not, whether his team mate really was in the stands, though, doesn't really matter. He has acted stupidly. More often than not, acts of casual racism, casual sexism and indeed casual fascism are done more out of ignorance than malice. But it does not render them excusable. A harsh punishment is only fitting for as idiotic an action as Katidis'. We can only hope that the deterrent serves its purpose, and that the strange case of Giorgos Katidis discourages any more calculated, more malicious attempts to bring fascism to the football field.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future