In a match between Queen’s Park Rangers and Chelsea last October a footballer said to another footballer: “f****** black c***” during the aftermath of an argument. Almost one year later John George Terry has been found guilty by the Football Association of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand and punished with a four game ban. Yet in between the utterance of that sentence and the punishment handed down yesterday, the entire English media, not to mention our own national coach have been involved in what can only be described as a circus.
Chelsea fans have been quick to jump to Terry’s defence which is understandable, after all he is there captain, their leader, why wouldn’t they? Did any United fan disown – or even criticise for that matter- Eric Cantona when he jumped into the stands and gave Matthew Simmons a good hiding? No. Eric’s own brand of “Kick It Out” campaigning was actually praised by most Reds, despite costing us the double and he was rightly welcomed back to Old Trafford with open arms by the masses.
This is different though, Terry hasn’t fought someone making a racist comment, he’s been the one making it. He’s the “baddie” in all of this if you’ll forgive my juvenile metaphor and while Anton Ferdinand is hardly your typical “goodie” he is the one that’s been the victim in this sorry episode. The truth has been twisted though so that even something as clear cut as one man calling another a “f****** black c***” is no longer viewed as simply as it should be. Many educated, intelligent Chelsea fans, former players and managers and even journalists not really associated with the club have chosen to believe Terry’s somewhat ridiculous reason for his racial slur. “He was found not guilty! Why shouldn’t we believe him when a judge did?” I can hear the collective cry from West London and beyond. Well Terry WAS found not guilty mainly due to the judge being unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t say f****** black c*** as a response to a perceived accusation from Anton Ferdinand.
Yet in his summing up judge Howard Riddle stated: “Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that Mr Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him [the racist phrase]. However, I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and believes now, that such an accusation was made.
It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him.
In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.”
This statement by the judge has been used by many of Terry’s supporters as proof of his innocence yet it really isn’t “proof” of anything other than the fact it was almost impossible for the judge to reach a guilty verdict with so many doubts thrown in by Terry’s defence. The terms “possible” “highly unlikely” and “doubt” make the whole verdict somewhat meaningless in terms of real “proof.”
Terry’s defence was almost the only option available to him with the video footage and Ferdinand’s testimony and it worked in the criminal proceedings yet came up short in the FA hearing.
Logic and common sense prevailed in the FA case- albeit about ten and a half months too late- and Terry was rightly punished if not for the length many wanted. Common sense tells us Terry is guilty, yet as Voltaire stated: “common sense is not so common.” – particularly if it’s not terribly convenient.
The sad thing about the whole Terry saga is that no one wins and football is moved back into the dark days of racism and people turning a blind eye to it, simply because it’s beneficial. I’ve been the victim of racial abuse many times and found Terry’s actions despicable and his defence preposterous but I’m not pleased he’s banned. I’m not happy he was convicted by the FA, far from it. I’d much have preferred it if Terry a man I cheered in Bloemfontein as I stood with other England fans had simply kept his racist views to himself when goaded by Ferdinand.
As much as many of us may dislike Terry- now more so than ever- before the incident with Ferdinand many of us could at least respect him as a footballer. Yes his abilities may have waned somewhat but over the years there’s no denying he’d been one of the best centre back’s in Europe and an integral part of the “Russian Revolution.”
Many black and mixed-race England fans like myself had supported Terry as he led our national side out, do we really want to think we’ve been cheering on someone who uses such vile taunts in an argument with a black footballer? No, of course not. It’s madness to rejoice in Terry’s demise as there’s no real winners in all of this.
Terry’s supporters may cling to the idea that he didn’t mean any offence when he uttered those words, but not matter how inconvenient it is for them and anyone that’s ever cheered him on, the Chelsea skipper meant every word of it.