The Nazi Salute: More Than A Bookable Offence

If you read yesterday's news, you will have seen the report about Giorgos Katidis, player for the Greek national football team, banned from the team for life for giving a Nazi salute after scoring a goal. After scoring the winner for his local team, AEK Athens, Katidis apparently removed his shirt and performed the one-armed salute in front of the entire stadium. At just 20 years old, his future career appears to lie in jeopardy and he will no longer be allowed to represent his country on a national or international scale because of the gesture.

Naturally Katidis was quick to jump to his own defence, firstly stating that he was pointing at a friend in the stands, and later posting to his Twitter account: "I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant." The German coach of the AEK Athens, Ewald Lienen, has supported his claims, saying, "He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the internet or somewhere else and did it without knowing what it means."

The idea of not understanding the symbolism behind the salute certainly makes more sense than Katidis' first claim; I find such a gesture an interesting way to 'point' at someone, considering the fact it looked so non-specific amongst other things. As for the idea of being totally naive to the salute - is that really plausible?
If you type 'Nazi salute' into Google, you are instantly presented with photos of Hitler, Cardinal Ratzinger (formerly Pope Benedict XVI) and wartime photos of the German population giving the salute. Unfortunately for Katidis, most of the photos are currently of him performing the salute, some having pasted a swastika over his chest. Regardless of knowing the correct term for it, however, Leinen claims Katidis may have copied it from the Internet. The Nazi salute originated with, well, the Nazis, and the Internet has plenty of photos of Hitler and his colleagues performing the one-armed gesture. Surely even a young man of 20 would know better than to make a show of something Hitler himself was photographed doing many times, even if he didn't quite understand its significance?
Alternatively, this is not the first time a Nazi salute has been given in public, nor even in football; in 1996, Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich was fined £1,000 and sanctioned by the Football Association when he performed a Nazi salute at a match against Tottenham Hotspur, a club known for their large Jewish following. Such a gesture only generates bad news (except for the few extremely right-wing websites and followings that would probably make a joke out of it). Unless he's been spending time on such websites - which make their thoughts and feelings clear - how can Katidis not have seen it in a bad light? I just simply fail to believe that he was totally clueless as to what it meant; perhaps he just fancied stirring up a bit of controversy and making the headlines. Whatever his reason, he has only ended up damaging his reputation and career.

I'm also pleased to see that Greece have taken a firm stance on this and banned him from the national team for life. The message is clear; they do not want anyone associated with or stirring up anything to do with fascism and Nazism on their team, because they know the consequences and are aware of how offensive such a gesture is.

What's your opinion on this story? Do you think Katidis was unaware of what the salute meant, or that he knew full well and wanted to make headlines? Do you also think it was right for Greece to give him a lifetime ban?