By now you’ve probably heard the story, seen the pictures, and watched the video. If not:

The 20-year-old Katidis gave a Nazi salute after scoring the go-ahead goal Saturday in AEK’s 2-1 victory over Veria in the Greek league. He pleaded ignorance of the meaning of his gesture – right arm extended and hand straightened. He claimed on his Twitter account that he detests fascism.

Giorgos Katidis
Coccar player Giorgos Katidis looking a lot like he is giving a Nazi salute after scoring an important goal in a soccer game.

This looks like a game of “shirts” vs. “skins” but that is because the exuberant soccer player ripped his shirt off just before doing the stiff-arm gesture. Here’s the video:

Ο χαιρετισμ?ς του Γι?ργου Κατ?δη! by kokoretsi

The most current info I have seen indicates that Katidis is now banned from his team for life. Other sanctions may be imposed as well. Yet, he claims that he did not know what he was doing, and his coach claims he was very upset and crying in the locker room after finding out people’s reactions.

As you know, the whole Nazi thing is Greece has been an issue lately. It is hard to believe that a guy living in Greece would not know anything about this, and that anyone growing up in western society, especially in Europe, would not know about Nazis and Nazi salutes. Personally, I have no opinion on whether or not he knew what he was doing. If you look at the picture, it is “clearly” a Nazi salute, but if you look at the film, it may be a bit more ambiguous. He was in a state of high emotion. He ripped his shirt off and was flailing around and getting jumped on and stuff. The still picture looks very different from the video, but either one could be interpreted rather negatively. Having said that, I’m reminded of this picture of me:

Greg Laden not giving a Nazi Salute in South Africa
This is me at Augrabies Falls National Park, South Africa.

In this picture, I’m standing in South Africa looking north towards Namibia. I’m explaining the geology to very interested onlookers, and at this particular moment I’m indicating the high ridge we see in the distance that forms the southern edge of the broad plateaux on which the Kalahari Sands rests. Here’s the plateaux, and you can see that it is far away and flat, thus the particular hand gesture I’m using:

Looking towards Namibia from  South Africa
The view across the Gariep (Orange) River, South Africa, looking North towards Namibia.

Since this is a picture of me in the field I used it for a while on the site 10,000 Birds where I write a monthly column. I thought it appropriate because it was me outside explaining stuff.

I’m not sure why anyone would legitimately think that I was giving a Nazi salute in this picture, or that I, an anti-racist anti-Nazi anthropologist who shares many salient features with Indian Jones (notice that in the picture I’ve got a sack like his, also, I often say “Nazis … I hate those guys” but I am not afraid of snakes to the extent he is) would ever do so. In fact, the Greek Nazi Party itself identified me as “The Antichrist” last year, and posted a whole blog page just on that. Nazis don’t like me any more than I like them. Also, why would I put a picture of myself making a Nazi salute on a web site about birds? Anyway, people who hate me on the Internet (bad people, I assure you) saw this picture and spread around that I was a Nazi, and that this was the proof. The picture sucks anyway, so I took it off. I suppose that makes me a crypto-Nazi to some.

One possible test of Giorgos Katidis intention, though it would be indirect, might be an examination of his tattoos. If he’s got a few swastikas permanently engraved on his body, then it is more likely that he was flashing the Nazi salute, right?

I’m glad the Greeks, and the sport, are alarmed and concerned about Nazi symbols. I’m not sure what the right thing to do in this case, though.