So in the last few weeks, racism has reared its head again in the game of football. This has mystified some, who swore on their lives that racism was a thing of the past, last seen in a Thatcherite era of anger and discontent.
Others keep insisting it’s been blown out of proportion by those salaciously looking for scandal and disrepute, and the notion of our multi-millionaire surrogate messiahs who wear our crests and colours, well they couldn’t be capable of such a thing. Racism does still exist. It exists in schools, in the workplace, in politics, in the media and shock horror, in football. The notion that we could wipe out such a strongly held set of beliefs in a generation or two is terribly misguided, and logically applicable to making the monster go away by closing your eyes. Tremendous strides have been made, but it has not been eradicated, it has been marginalized. It’s no longer acceptable to go up to someone on the street and call them the N word, but it doesn’t mean you’ve changed the guy’s mind who wanted to do it. And saying that it has only serves to damage.
Which is why the reaction by the general populace of football die-hards to the three major incidents concerning English football of late. The Luis Suarez incident, the John Terry incident and Sep Blatter’s recent comments that proclaimed that racism no longer exists and football, and if it does well darn, it can be solved with a handshake. No hard feelings right guys? The reaction of fans, pundits and players have had to each incident is incredibly schizophrenic. Nobody seems to know what to think, what to say, or even what they’re allowed to say, which has led to a cacophony of noise and flailing, particularly in regards to the John Terry incident which to me has brought the absolute worst out of football fans, on both sides of the issue.
I think a large part of the problem has been the John Terry haters, of whom there are many, have viewed the scandal with the eyes of an opportunist, seeing a chance to get their man once and for all. To be clear, I don’t like John Terry. I don’t think he’s a good human being, and his off the pitch actions since he became a superstar have been inarguably reprehensible, from the whole Wayne Bridge thing to has laughably arrogant press conference at the World cup, where he undermined Gerrard’s captaincy by implying that only he had the ability to motivate and lead the England team, a joke if ever there was one. But being a horrible person is one thing, and being a racist is another. Sleeping with Wayne Bridge’s ex-wife may be a violation of the Bro Code, but it is not evidence to suggest that he did or didn’t racially abuse Anton Ferdinand. That’s not an argument, and the barrage of people who saw this not as a serious case of potential public racism, but as the final straw to bring down this role model teaching all our kids how to be an asshole. They sullied the issue, and it meant everyone was attacking and defending Terry for the wrong reasons.
Which sort of made everyone miss the moment when Terry admitted to using racial slurs, albeit in a non-aggressive context.. Put that up against the video footage that while some people claim is nothing, couldn’t be shown on Match Of The Day without being pixellated at 10:30 PM. To me this is open and shut, based on the facts in front of us. But a certain group of Chelsea fans, and no doubt fans from further afield who view Terry as a vital element of England 2012, simply didn’t accept this. I respect their right to say he’s innocent before proven guilty and to some extent Terry did need some logical defence from the lynch mob. But it wasn’t enough to say that. They went on the attack, first attacking Stan Collymore on twitter after he took Anton Ferdinand’s side, but most despicably when they chanted, in a unremarkable Champions league game against Genk no less, ‘Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are’ and then subsequently defended this by singing ‘ We’ll sing what we want’. People don’t like to insult fans, as they are rightly seen as the heart and soul of the game, but everyone who sang that against Genk is an embarrassment to the game, an embarrassment to their club and embarrassment to society. To them the image and name of John Terry, Mr Chelsea through and through and hero of Stamford Bridge is more important than a man’s right not to be racially abused at his place of work. Standing by John Terry is understandable, but trying to ostracize Anton Ferdinand’s name to protect his image is not. If he was what they accused him of being, and to me that’s a liar, a man out to sully their hero’s name for..For what exactly? Oh right they didn’t think it through to that part. If that was who he was, then he could have buried John Terry on the first day, ruined his legacy forever by coming out and saying ‘He said it’. Ferdinand didn’t say this. He didn’t proclaim Terry’s innocence either, perhaps because he doesn’t believe Terry to be innocent, but either way Ferdinand didn’t bury him, presumably because he’s a good person. And frankly if I was Anton Ferdinand and I heard about that chant, I’d be calling a press conference first thing the following morning. But he didn’t do that either. So insulting a man who has reacted to this whole situation with nothing but integrity is just the act of some desperate, ignorant assholes. And to me the most appalling thing English football fans have done in recent memory.
Then there was Luis Suarez, who after calling Patrice Evra a ‘negro’ claimed that it wasn’t an insult where he grew up, as much as it was a term of endearment. His defence then is that he wasn’t calling Evra a nigger, but rather calling him ‘My nigger’ and that this is all just a Larry David-esque racial misunderstanding of epic proportions. This is a defence so utterly laughable that even if it’s true Suarez is too stupid for words. But it’s clearly not true, and I expect Suarez to get punished to the full extent of the FA law. But here’s thing that irks me. Where are Suarez’s passionate defenders, where are the Liverpool fans coming out furiously to his aid, protecting him from all sides. Suarez is certainly more important to Liverpool than Terry is to Chelsea at this point in time. Unless that’s not what this is. Unless it’s more, a ‘He’s not one of us’ kind of thing. Nobody likes Suarez. He dives, he gets people booked and he’s all skill and guile as opposed to heart and soul like Terry. Folks on the terraces don’t identify with that, whereas Terry is the only non-mercenary in a team of mercenaries. He’s one of them. I know nothing about the technicalities of both cases, but I am certain that Suarez gets a guilty verdict and Terry gets an innocent one, and then a parade and a media blitz reminding us why he’s so great. To me they’ve committed exactly the same crime, and the outcome that will come to pass isn’t that different to say Black Males being more likely to get convicted than white males for the same crime. Racism is institutional, and even when in regards to who’s the more racist, it seems like the non-white guy is going to lose.
Which brings me to Sep Blatter’s response to the whole situation, which is to say it isn’t happening. Blatter is pretty much the J Edgar Hoover of football, a guy everyone knows is corrupt and essentially bad news for the game, but seems to have the job set up for life because everyone in a position to challenge him was put there by Blatter, so he runs for re-election unopposed. I hear it was running 50-50 between him and no-one, but such is democracy. But to elaborate on his position, he says nothing is happening, but if it is (which it’s not) then dudes can just hug it out at the final whistle. Rio Ferdinand, a man who I have no lost love for, is absolutely correct when he says that Blatter doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and this is a hugely damaging thing to say. Everyone seems to be getting behind this, because Blatter makes for an easy bad guy, and speaking out against him is easy way to look progressive. But he’s only saying the same thing everyone was saying a month or two ago, when the Terry situation came to the fore. Do you seriously think that Terry’s a racist they would ask, with all sincerity? How could he be? To me this is a problem. Because guilty or innocent, one only has to listen to 606 to hear the influence the Terry incident is already having. From kids at an under 12 game. Racially abusing their black referee, to a fan getting arrested for doing the same to a black player on the opposing team. An innocent verdict for Terry, regardless of its correctness, is sadly going to make racism slightly more acceptable then it was the night before, just like seeing Terry on TV affected those kids. So when you’re defending John Terry or anyone in this type of situation, just be sure it’s for the right reasons that are fact not fan based, because proclaiming a man essentially ‘Too big to fail’ diminishes the very important issue of racism not only in football, but in our society. And that’s a very slippery slope.