On Friday 13th July Chelsea Football Club’s captain John George Terry will be found guilty or not guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence. Before, during and even after the trial’s conclusion practically every football fan in England will have made up their mind as to whether the verdict is the correct one.
Let’s not pretend that any of us reading this right now don’t have an opinion on whether the former England captain racially abused Anton Ferdinand. Let’s also not be in denial as to whether the decision of judge Howard Riddle will have any real bearing on our own thoughts on the matter.
I could sit here and pretend that as a United fan, I have no real interest in the case and that the outcome doesn’t really matter, but that would be bullsh*t of the highest order. For starters Anton Ferdinand is obviously Rio’s brother and that automatically gives me some form of interest in the case, after all, it would be foolish to pretend many of us Reds haven’t “sided with Rio.”
Then there’s the anti-Terry aspect many of us feel towards the Chelsea skipper, even when he was accused of shagging a City player’s ex-girlfriend many United fans acted with incredulous indignation that he could be so callous and disgusting towards a former team mate. Yet let me ask you two questions: “did any of us truly give a sh*t?” Also “did we treat Ryan Giggs with the same contempt for his far worse misdemeanour?” No, it was the fact it was Terry, one of our rivals better players who angered so many United fans over the years, not just for winning trophies, often at our expense but for the “spit” on Carlos Tevez during the Champions League final- ironically something many of us wouldn’t have a problem with right now, that for many Reds, made him perpetually hated.
The booing of Rio at Chelsea, a club he was once courted by, last season, simply for being Anton’s brother, also seemed to galvanise our collective hatred of Terry. Then came the decision to omit the United defender from Euro 2012, seemingly to placate the Chelsea man, which only added to our ire. Again I could point out the inconsistencies in many of us actually wishing Rio would retire from England duty anyway and being angry at him being left out, but for the sake of brevity I won’t.
Terry’s trial has seen Rio tweeting surreptitious messages, regarding his “films of the day” which have brought both support and anger from the different factions. Chelsea fans labelling him “petty” “bitter” and “spineless” while Reds have praised him as “funny” “clever” and even “supportive of his brother.”
Personally I stopped following Rio on twitter when his “download my latest app, Snickers are amazing” hyperbole got too much, although curiosity got the better of me during the last few days and I duly found myself checking his tweets to see if he’d made another “clever” reference to the trial.
Chelsea fans will defend their captain no matter what the outcome, Terry’s defence has made sure that it is based almost purely on opinions as to whether you believe he made a racist insult. Fans of practically every other club in England, or at least Chelsea’s rivals, will no doubt believe Terry is guilty, regardless of the verdict.
This week however has seen the sort of tribalistic loyalty that reared it’s ugly head during the Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez affair. During that whole sorry episode, practically every United fan supported and believed our skipper, while almost to a man the Liverpool fans backed Suarez- even after the FA’s verdict.
I’d like to sit here and say that many of us are more concerned with ‘justice being done’ that this is about showing ‘racism the red card’ to quote a cheesy campaign slogan. But let’s not pretend that it is. For many fans following the trial this is about where our allegiances lie, who we dislike, and dare I say, what would actually benefit our club’s the most. Don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions, people who genuinely only want to see either a ‘right being wronged’ or an ‘innocent man being vindicated’ but those people are few and far between.
The fact is only John Terry truly knows whether he made a racist insult or not, no one else will ever be able to honestly say. We could debate, the intricacies of the trial, the various statements, what Anton did or didn’t say to the Chelsea skipper, but it would all lead us nowhere. We all have an opinion – including me- but there will always be someone who disagrees regardless of our view.
Did Terry call Anton Ferdinand a racially motivated insult, or was he making a ‘sarcastic’ comment? The real question is does it really matter anymore to any of us or is this simply about which team we support?
Let me ask you one final question and I only request you wait until the verdict to give me your answer, right now do you think Terry is guilty? When the verdict is announced see if your answer is still the same.
Follow me on twitter @RFFH