I love a bit of nostalgia, watching vintage United victories, or digging out an old LP or cassette, maybe catching Different Strokes on a cable channel.
So imagine my delight when it seemed that a dark and distant memory from my childhood was now back in vogue, yes racism after seemingly all but disappearing from the top flight of English football was upon us once more. Hurrah! Maybe this will be the start of a new 1980’s type racist trip down memory lane, maybe black players will have bananas thrown at them and black fans like myself can be told to go back to our own country by rival supporters. In case you’re wondering I’m joking, I have about as much wish to see football return to the days of “John Barnes’s goal for England doesn’t count cos he aint English” as I have to watch Manchester City win the treble.
The point is while we haven’t even got close to those tragic times, we do seem to be making a step in that direction with the treatment of the accusers of both John Terry and Luis Suarez.
Patrice Evra accuses Luix Suarez of racially abusing him during the Liverpool -United match at Anfield in October. So what was the immediate reaction from the football world? Objective analysis? Sympathy for Evra’s plight, or genuine concern that he may have been the victim of the sort of abuse that no player should be subjected to? No. It was a severe character assasination of Evra from practically the entire ABU brigade. Evra was accused of ‘playing the race card like he always has.’ by anyone who isn’t a United fan. The sorry thing is I actually saw on some social networks and forums so-called ‘Reds’ claiming Evra ‘may be lying cos he’s got form for this sort of thing.’ It actually disgusted me. The man is Manchester United’s captain and a loyal servant to the club for almost six years now. I don’t expect every United fan to blindly believe anything a player says, but to accuse him of making it up, while erroneously claiming he has before seems almost unthinkable.
For starters Evra hasn’t got form for this sort of thing at all. Many cited the Sam Bethell and Steve Finnan cases as proof he’s ‘played the race card before.’ Yet if you take the time to examine either of those cases you’ll see it was Mickey Phelan and some deaf fans watching the game on television that made the accusations. In both cases Evra admitted he hadn’t heard any racist remarks. The only other time Evra has made any comments surrounding being racially abused was when he noted that Senegal’s fans had abused him for playing for France, during their World Cup clash. That’s hardly ‘playing the race card’ yet some people who obviously don’t know the difference between playing the race card and being the victim of racism would claim it is.
Regardless of what has gone on before, Evra was made to look like the trouble causer and Suarez, I actually cannot believe I’m writing this, was made to look like the innocent victim of Mad Pat’s nonsense.
First of all, I realise that just because Suarez has been charged by the FA doesn’t make him guilty, but either way, the difference in the treatment of the two players has been nothing short of startling.
Kenny Daglish wasted no time in throwing his support behind his player- even after the FA warned the club’s management not to comment, the Liverpool boss found ways around it. On Match of the Day: “We’ll wait and see what transpires with this so-called investigation…….. His integrity has never been in doubt of a football pitch.”
Later in the post match press conference:
“On the football pitch he is exemplary, a fantastic footballer, and we have 100% faith in Luis Suarez and the way he conducts himself.”
Even the most shortsighted Scouser could see what that one meant.
Then a few days later on the matter: “Whoever is the guilty party – the person who said it or the accuser – [should] get their due punishment.” So now it seemed that Evra should be punished for making the allegation if it couldn’t be proved.
While on international duty Suarez had this to say on the matter:
“The FA will have to clarify things with Evra. There is no evidence I said anything racist to him. I said nothing of the sort. There were two parts of the discussion, one in Spanish, one in English. I did not insult him. It was just a way of expressing myself. I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him, and even they were surprised by his reaction. These things happen in football, in the heat of the moment. They leave someone looking bad. Now we have to see how the matter is decided and then, for him as much as me, we will have things clear. And wherever the fault lies, we are going to have to say sorry.”
Meanwhile Evra had to suffer in silence, as both he and the club kept quiet on the issue as the FA had instructed them to.
Meanwhile, another dare I say even bigger race row was erupting in West London- the only reason I’d say bigger is because, unlike the Evra-Suarez affair which had the added ambiguity of language barriers, plus little video evidence this one involved the England captain.
John Terry’s alleged abuse of Anton Ferdinand has been the most disappointing aspect of the whole race row, even more disappointing that the subsequent rantings of Sepp Blatter. Why? Simple. Ever since Ferdinand accused Terry of racially abusing him, which seems pretty obvious given the video evidence, the England captain seems to have had no end of support from various people both inside and outside Chelsea football club.
Andre Villas Boas had this to say before the ink had dried on Ferdinand’s complaint: “He said to me the incident was a big misunderstanding. That’s why he put his statement out straight away. I find it strange when people don’t trust the words of a representative from your country.”
So when a representative of your country says he’s just popping round to see your ex-girlfriend to see if she’s okay, you should trust him yeah? Sorry that was a low blow.
AVB went on:
“Anton was present in our dressing room,” he said. “For us, it was end of story and it still is. It’s just a misunderstanding and something blown out of all proportion. People who represent this country should have better and fuller support.”
Yes. Poor John Terry not having the support he needs just for calling someone a black c….! Jesus wept. The mind actually boggles that anyone could make such a ridiculous statement and keep a straight face.
AVB needn’t have worried though because Terry did have the support he needed as wasted no time in telling everyone while on England duty:
‘People, players and managers from across the world have been on the phone and been very supportive of me.’
The Chelsea fans had already shown their ‘support’ of John Terry by chanting “Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are” during a Champions League clash. Lovely classy stuff from an adorable bunch of cheeky cockney chaps I’m sure you’ll agree.
As if that wasn’t bad enough rent a Chelsea quote Ray Wilkins through his two penneth worth in by stating: “There is no way on God’s planet he is a racist, no way whatsoever. And I will back John 100 per cent.
“I’ve no idea how this mess has arisen but I’m stating from what I know of the man he is not a racist.
“I would think my view is shared by all of his colleagues at Chelsea. John is the captain of Chelsea and has been for years, and it’s probably the most multi-cultural club in world football.
“There’s no way he could lead those guys and look them in the face if he was a racist.”
Here’s a heads up, Butch, Terry doesn’t need to be goose-stepping around a burning crucifix to be capable of making a racist remark. Just because he hasn’t been racist before, or should I say in front of you or his team mates, doesn’t mean he can’t be.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough for Anton Ferdinand to have to deal with, the entire, country, no sorry the world, backing John Terry, who’s still captaining his country, while the QPR man has those glorious Chelsea chants ringing in his ears, Sepp Blatter decides to weigh in claiming there is no racism in football.
Meanwhile the other ‘accuser’ or ‘victim’ depending on your point of view, had to endure this comment from Brighton manager Gus Poyet:
“I played football for seven years in Spain and was called everything because I was from South America, and I never went out crying like a baby, like Patrice Evra, saying that someone had said something to me.”
Well, I can see why the opinion of Brighton’s manager is important in the Evra-Suarez case, thank God, he weighed in with a well rounded intelligent point. Sigh.
Regardless of the outcome of either case, Evra and Ferdinand have already been made pariahs by many in football and that for me is the real tragedy on the whole sorry affair.