At another place, Monsieur Salut wrote yesterday that he disliked John Terry, detested racism, loathed yob culture wherever it manifested itself (including Loftus Road) … but thought the case as brought against Terry was idiotic and should have been dealt with by the FA, which might have been less ready to give benefit of the doubt. Pete Sixsmith takes the argument further, with subtle differences …
After three weeks spent marking GCSE History papers, I have emerged from the cocoon of assessing the average 16-year-old’s knowledge of The Berlin Airlift, the Munich Conference and whether the main reason for the failure of the League of Nations to solve the Abyssinian Crisis was the fault of Britain and France or the USA, into the fantasy world that is Premier League football.
As I perused the grumblings on the message boards about the lack of MON to recruit anyone (it seems anyone will do and that a carefully thought out approach to signing players is not acceptable to some of these serial moaners), wondered about the real reasons for the demise of Good ol’ Arry and looked in disbelief at the hole that is being dug for Scottish football, I began to have serious doubts about whether I really wanted to immerse myself in top level football for the foreseeable future.
The events of yesterday, when John Terry was acquitted, did nothing to make me change my mind.
On balance, the magistrate was probably correct to throw out the charges. He gave Terry the benefit of the doubt as to whether he was repeating or insulting. Had Anton Ferdinand heard it at first hand and then reported it, I have no doubt that Terry would have been successfully prosecuted and that his career would have been over. As it is, he remains “Captain, Leader, Legend” for the non-discerning Chelsea fans. They are welcome to him.
I don’t like Terry and I find him the epitome of the arrogant PL footballer. He suits Chelsea perfectly; no regard for tradition, brash, full of money and ego and not liked outside his own midden. He played well in the Euros, but purely as a determined, gritty, English centre half, the type we hoped that Michael Turner would have developed into, but without the personality traits that make Terry such an unloved figure.
What really depressed me was the level of insult that the two men exchanged. It reminded me so much of the times I had to intervene in classroom situations where slowly maturing 15-year-old boys were having “issues” with one another. The f and c words would be used, as would the delightful “knobhead”. Sign language would be used and personal comments would be made about clothes, breath and family. It could be settled after they had been separated, but there would be a simmering atmosphere for weeks afterwards.
And that is what happened at Loftus Road in November last year. Two overgrown schoolboys, one who had laughed at US citizens the day after 9/11 and the other who had fabricated a story about his grandmother that even the dimmest 15 year old would have rejected as unbelievable, stood there insulting one another in the middle of an intense PL game in front of millions of viewers.
Of course sledging has always been a part of sport. I would imagine that in the 1890s Ernie Shufflebottom of Blackburn Rovers said of Geordie Lumsdon of Sunderland that his mother did not black her steps properly and that his wife showed too much of her petticoats. The two of them would push and shove and Geordie would bear a grudge against Ernie for the rest of his career and, when retired, would refuse to serve him in his newly acquired tobacconists shop.
But this one took a nasty turn when Terry inserted the word “black” in the phrase that he was repeating to Ferdinand. Terry’s assertion that there was a question mark at the end of the phrase was the one that the Magistrate accepted, although I wonder if he really believed it.
The use of the word “black” is, in my view, racist. Call him a f c if you like (hardly Oscar Wilde is it), but insert the word black and you are making a reference to the colour of his skin and that is a very sensitive issue. People are killed because of the colour of their skin, and that makes the use of the word black a racist term.
Here in the North East, we have problems with racism. Darren Bent must have felt uncomfortable at Sunderland after his mother was abused at Wigan. Black players at Newcastle have been abused by the twitterati, while there have been concerted attacks on businesses owned by non-whites.
One of the saddest comments on this was by a former student on Facebook ( an intelligent young woman, although living in a community that has a strong BNP presence), who said that she was glad it was all over but that if it had been the other way round nothing would have happened. The racism in that statement is implied rather than obvious, but is in some ways worse.
The Ebac Northern League is attempting to control the flow of bad language that flows from players on the field. League Chairman Mike Amos is implementing a scheme where clubs will be cited by crowd members if their management or players are responsible for a stream of obscenities. He believes, with some justification, that obscene language prevents families from attending games. It is easier to hear the Ferdinand/Terry words at Dean Street, Shildon than it is at The Stadium of Light, Sunderland. He must despair after this airing of football’s dirty linen.
Where do we go from here? That is for those better qualified than me to decide. But I do know that I will not be going anywhere near Stamford Bridge or Loftus Road in the coming season, and there may well be a few other grounds that will not see me between August and May. It’s all becoming a bit too much.