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Was Anelka a misunderstood or a precursor?

The Netflix documentary shows how the story of the French striker is more current than you think

Was Anelka a misunderstood or a precursor? The Netflix documentary shows how the story of the French striker is more current than you think


Anelka Misunderstood’s defining moment arrives halfway through the Netflix documentary. Anelka are looking for something in his sneakers closet into his Dubai house: suddenly, in a cliffhanger look-alike, appears the Champions League Trophy miniature won in 2000 with Real Madrid - later the same year, would become european champion also with France at Euro 2000. Anelka looks at it and smiles; “Here it is, 2000/2001 season”, says to the camera, just before that his friend point out that the trophy is from the previous season.

This detail explains how Anelka can be considered first "aware" footballer in the modern era, especially with regard the difference between that’s what happening on and off the pitch. In this article published on The Ringer, Micah Peters wrote that “Anelka churned against the average sports fan’s idea that what you’re seeing on the field, in the player’s tunnel, or in the locker room, is a perfectly rendered portrait of an athlete”. So a man first of all, that should be careful not to be only the projection of what  he does or not on the court, avoid becoming the victim of a game that often required a specific standard in performances and personality. Because of this misunderstanding the italian version of the documentary is titled Genie and Wildness: something that has nothing to do with the story shown on the screen. Anelka bad boy’s narrative has always been tied to the circumstance that, at a certain point of his life, for him has meant more be himself that his career’s prospects. Today, in the Istangram Stories era, looks normal that football players show us the good and bad of their emotivity: when Anelka did, was only a spoiled star, too much payed and not committed. 

But it cannot be said that Anelka has been unaccomplished, lazy, wasting-talented player. In fact his palmares is great, he’s in the top-20 scoring list of the France National Team - 14 goals in 69 caps -, he scored almost 230 goals in nine different championships. Howewer have been the first global and globalized footballer off the pitch, altered prespectives and perceptions on the player: Anelka opened the "football-to the footballers era", moving to Arsenal from Psg when he was not yet on legal age, he was the first player that revealed the connection between football and pop culture - sometimes in controversial way as when, in 2013, taken the quenelle gesture from Dieudonné, getting disqualified by Football Association -, he unveiled that reality made of conflictuality (with teammates and coaches) we’ve come to know but that, not long ago, was something that you could only imagine.

All of this appears familiar today, because football players show their daily routine on social network but at that time was something new, differente, "misunderstood" exactly. And that made unintellegible a player that was simply ahead of his time into the way of dressing, communicating, acting, thinking outside the box. Let’s think about Karim Benzema that has in common with Anelka a difficult story with France National Team and a star power built on his marked personality and the ostentation of certain details. Without Anelka, today the Real Madrid #9 would seem an alien figure compared to ideal of football player with boyband look and cheap statements; instead Anelka has shown that new communicative, aesthetic and cultural canons that seemed belonging only to him and that, instead, today belong to all. In Misunderstood we found the daily routine made of workouts and time spent with his sons, the addiction for sneakers streetwear and hip-hop music, the celebration of work ethic and the reflection on how “being footballer is hard!”, the strong connection with birthplace and origins.       



Practically a normal Instagram feed in which a footballer tells about himself and his life. Just like Anelka. That made this when Instagram and social media didnt’ exist.