It’s funny what you remember from your childhood. For me it wasn’t the dust ups in the schoolyard – believe I had a losing record. What I do remember is every single time a racial slur was directed my way, vividly. Thankfully I grew up in a pretty great multicultural neighborhood with a variety of people from all over the world, but it still happened. I can recite what was said verbatim, no matter how stupid – calling someone a ‘paki’ is the epitome of lazy work.
That’s why I wanted to believe Anton Ferdinand’s version of events when Chelsea met QPR in another installment of the London derby in October of last year. It’s why I have trouble believing John Terry was simply repeating what Ferdinand said when he uttered the now infamous ‘fucking black c***’ in the QPR defender’s direction.
John Terry was cleared of all charges today – the magistrate ruled it was impossible to determine what exactly was said on the pitch that day. Is Terry a racist jackass? That remains unclear. With that said, what in the hell was the point of this trial. Ferdinand didn’t actually hear what Terry said. And didn’t we already know footballers say terrible things to each other on the pitch? This quote from the Guardian wrap summed up the trial perfectly:
“The prosecution alleged Terry used the words “Fuck off, fuck off’, yeah, yeah”, “and”, “you fucking black c***, fucking knobhead”. The prosecutor suggested this was Terry responding to a “slow fist pump” gesture by Ferdinand, relating to an alleged affair between Terry and an ex-girlfriend of Terry’s former teammate Wayne Bridge.”
Whether Terry will face any disciplinary action is now up to the FA, as it should have been all along. Luis Suarez’s punishment for racial abuse directed at Patrice Evra was fair and significant. Anton Ferdinand didn’t want this to go to court. The complaint – there was only one – was lodged by an off duty police officer watching the game on television. How that was enough to launch the most ridiculous legal spectacle in recent memory boggles my mind.
How ridiculous was this? Ashley Cole emerged as the voice of reason when he took the stand to defend his captain stating, “I think we shouldn’t be sitting here.” Ca$hley was correct.
We’re far away from a day when racial epithets/abuse/idiocy are no longer a part of football – be it the supporters in the stands or the players on the pitch. We get further from eradicating it with sham trials designed to draw media attention and shame for all the wrong reasons.
This was a case designed for the now defunct television series Crown Court. The fact that this wasn’t a bad TV show and a real, actual thing is an indictment of the British legal system, press and the sport as a whole. Is the game no longer capable of policing itself – or more importantly, was it ever?