Tribalism in football when it comes to issues that aren’t related to football (i.e. racism) is a serious issue. Doubtless there are many Chelsea fans who detest Luis Suarez, and who feel he fully deserved his 8 game suspension last year. And at the same time these fans feel horribly offended at John Terry’s persecution by the FA. Likewise there will be Liverpool supporters who feel Suarez should never have been punished and that Terry has got off lightly.
In my opinion the priority for Chelsea FC at the minute is to avoid making itself look stupid the way Liverpool did last season, turning a cultural misunderstanding into a full on defence of racist language. Then the priority of us fans should be to support the club in whatever it decides to do. We don’t in anyway want for our fan base to be seen as hypocrites or fundamentalists by getting into classless point scoring contests with other fans on social media. Whether we like it or not, and whether we feel it’s just or not, it’s time to accept what’s happened and get over it.
For anyone who hasn’t been playing close attention, the reason John Terry was found guilty by the FA after being cleared by the courts is because the FA don’t need to clear all reasonable doubt before passing a judgement. They can punish a player based on the ‘balance of probability’. Whether it’s fair to label a man a ‘convicted racist’ based on the ‘balance of probability’ is very questionable.
As it stands, Terry and his legal team are waiting for a report (explaining his conviction) to be issued before deciding whether or not to appeal, and the club are smartly waiting until the result of an appeal has been given before declaring their position.
I think by now, everyone that’s reading this has formed a solid opinion of how guilty Terry is, of whether or not he is a racist and what he deserves to happen next. In my eyes, it should be clear to anyone with a brain cell he isn’t a racist or prejudice in anyway and only his most passionate critics could discard character statements from proud black Chelsea players as proof of this.
I put in my last article a quote from an opinion column in The Independent. A broadsheet who ran the obscenely blunt headline this morning – “John Terry: Captain, Leader, Legend, Racist”. The quote was from a previous Sports Writer of the Year called James Lawton. He wrote that Terry had become “an ultimate example of football’s capacity not only to injure itself but cast serious doubt about either its will or ability to reclaim a good name”.
To me this is unprofessional, untrue and it’s a hypocritical thing to write. Firstly I don’t have any qualms citing Terry as a personal hero and role model. Yes, he’s made mistakes, but name one occasion where he hasn’t dealt with the consequences like a man and hasn’t moved forward with the best interest of his team and supporters at heart. He’s also never once let these mistakes affect his performances, showing a character and professionalism that journalists often find it very convenient to ignore.
What John Terry said on October 23 last year, hasn’t sullied English football nearly as much as the disgraceful and distasteful coverage this whole saga has been given by British papers. Broadsheet opinion columns like Lawton’s have taken on the form of Gossip Magazine ‘take down’ pieces, where the writer deliberately chooses to convey a negative opinion of a man he hardly knows and pass judgements that can only be hurtful and offensive to the friends, family and supporters of the player. Judgements also, he knows will only fuel a nationwide hatred of a decent man.
It isn’t journalism – it’s a form of pollution that makes us stupider and meaner and is the real reason why football will never “reclaim its good name”. Not because footballers are less honest, less decent men than they were forty years ago, but because journalists will insist on highlighting their flaws and taking them down in national newspapers when they could just as easily be writing about all of the charity work and the numerous other ways these men use their position of power for good.
Instead of informing or enlightening us with expert opinions/insights, Lawton and his peers are turning the public into old ladies with hairdryers gorging themselves, passing uniformed judgement on professional footballers that in truth, as people, they hardly know the first thing about.
I find it a sickening culture to be a part of.