It may have been over a week ago now, but I am still getting my head round the verdict reached at Westminster Magistrates Court on John Terry’s innocence over alleged abusive comments to Anton Ferdinand.
It doesn’t matter if he is racist or not, he’ll be subject to Ferdinand-related taunts himself, much akin to that he experienced following the Wayne Bridge affair (I’m aware “affair” is too perfect a word to describe that tumultuous spell in his life). Terry has said he has been called a lot of things in his football career and off the pitch: “but being called a racist I am not prepared to take. I have never been accused of that before, inside or outside football.” Personally, innocent or otherwise, I don’t think he has a say in the matter.
Morally, because of Terry’s previous misdemeanors, it is doubtful whether the Chelsea defender deserves our sympathy. Yet his future circumstances will reflect the attitudes of football terraces.
Take David Goodwillie, for instance. The Blackburn Rovers player was accused of rape whilst playing in Scotland for Dundee United. Importantly, Goodwillie was found not guilty. Do you think opposition fans chant about his innocence? Of course not. Rather, Goodwillie will no doubt have the label of “rapist” over his head, when the courts suggest otherwise. An unfortunate surname is not to his advantage in this case, one must note.
Another case study of note is the career of former England left-back Graeme LeSaux. LeSaux received baseless homophobic abuse during his playing days due to failing to comply with the laddish stereotypes of professional football. Is this fair? Not really. Yet to point the finger at football crowds would be harsh.
The culture of taunting and bullying in their various forms are no different to those of a playground or a cricket pitch – where sledging is a near-celebrated aspect of the sport, despite being the pinnacle of sporting conduct and decency. The phrase “it is just not cricket” is universal for respect and honest behaviour, despite the exact opposite being commonplace (see Mark Boucher below). What Terry will go through with other players, as well as with fans, is not confined to football alone.
I’d like to clarify that this is not a defence of John Terry. I generally do not like what he often appears to represent, such as alleged adultery (see Wayne Bridge), foolishness (that sending off against Barcelona in the European Cup semi-finals) or glory hunting (his appearance, fully-kitted to boot, in the subsequent final in Munich). But the court ruling in his favour in any other walk of life would be enough. In his profession, it simply is not.
This article is of course based on one assumption; that we have trust in our judiciral system. I personally do, but I appreciate those with doubts considering that the other pillars of our society (financial industries, parliamentarians, the free press) have all have massive crises’ in confidence in the past five years.
My rebuttal to that is that is that Ferdinand hardly represents the proletariat people repressed in the capitalist system which Marx argues. If this was decided by who could afford the best lawyer, a case study between two millionaire professional footballers probably isn’t the best to us
Perhaps most worryingly though is that, if Terry was found guilty last week, he would’ve recieved a fine of £2500. When Nicklas Bendtner wore underwear sponsored by Paddy Power at the European Championships, he was fined £80,000 for ambush marketing. It is good to know that the priorities are right, isn’t it?