On 15th October 2011, Liverpool and Manchester United completed a frenetic, hot-tempered draw at Anfield. Hours later, Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez, was accused of using racist language towards United’s Patrice Evra during the match, where the two had been involved in various duals throughout the 90 minutes.
Little over a month later, Suarez was charged by the FA for racist conduct. In December his punishment of a £40,000 fine (which is, let’s face it, pittance for a Premier League footballer) and an eight match ban was issued.
Quite simply there was no getting away from it. Stories, columns, opinions, blogs all swept in to condemn or defend the Liverpool star. Newspapers ran headlines such as “RACIST”, English journalists publicly condemning Suarez and his alleged behaviour, whilst everyone involved with Liverpool responded with nothing but staunch defence of their striker.
This was the news, day in day out. Everybody knew the hearing dates, everyone had an opinion, everyone knew the statements from both parties, and there wasn’t a single person in football, outside of Liverpool, who doubted the Uruguayan was guilty.
John Terry’s trial started yesterday.
As someone who makes it his business to be up to date in all the goings-on of the football world, I was shocked when, on the 8th July, the day before Terry’s trial, talk of the Englishman’s hearing quietly broke out on Twitter. Football fans and journalists appeared just as taken aback as I that the hearing for Chelsea’s captain was as close as it was.
In fact, the mainstream English media had strangely failed to bring it to light.
John Terry was accused of hurling racist abuse at QPR defender Anton Ferdinand in Chelsea’s game at Loftus Road on October 23rd. This week, Terry took to the stand to defend himself against the accusations.
On the BBC sports website, the story of Terry’s hearing remained the main article for all of an hour, before it was announced that Manchester City’s manager, who won the league last season, had a new contract at the club. But let’s rewind shall we? Because this isn’t the first instance of the English Media or anyone else attempting to hush up the story of the beloved, lionhearted captain’s “slip of the tongue”.
Despite the fact that Terry’s incident only took place 8 days after Luis Suarez’s, the Englishman did not need to face up to his charge in 2011. In fact, the hearing was postponed until the end of the Euro’s, so Terry could go and represent his country in some football matches, which clearly takes priority over a criminal charge.
In the weeks leading up to the tournament in Poland/Ukraine, the English Media ran several stories on the racist overtones in the host nations. People were in outcry as they watched Panorama, taking to social networking sites in horror at what they had seen. How could a country with an undercurrent of racism host an international football tournament?
Never mind that the flag bearer for our nation’s football team was due to face a criminal charge for racist abuse when he returned from the Euro’s. Never mind that we consistently see black players abused by crowd members in our own country and that in the last season there have been two high profile, top league players accused of being racist towards another player.
On Suarez’s return from his ban, he was criticised for every possible misstep in matches, and despite his obvious talent, the English media firmly strayed from praising him.
John Terry was in the majority of English journalist’s team of the tournament for Euro 2012. Each performance was greeted with a barrage of praise at Terry’s power, his leadership, his bravery, his heart. Weeks after a TV channel aired a program exposing the racist activity in Poland and Ukraine, the same channel used John Terry, a man charged with racist abuse, as the figurehead for an emotional montage promoting England’s matches.
The fact is, whether John Terry is guilty of racism or not, he should not be representing our country in football until the matter is resolved. He should not have been at Euro 2012, unless the hearing had taken place before and he had been found innocent.
With the severity of Luis Suarez’s punishment, the FA showed that stopping racism was important to them. With the delay of John Terry’s hearing, they showed that winning Euro 2012 was more important.
Fast forward to today, and the media have been nothing short of embarrassing. The lack of mainstream coverage of the John Terry trial smacks of this horrible sickness that has enveloped this country. We’re not racist, you are.
Where Suarez was charged quickly, despite their being no witnesses and no evidence, Terry is yet to receive a charge nearly 8 months after the incident, which can be seen clearly on Youtube.
It’s like a mutated form of patriotism, an ignorance that has infested itself in football.
We’re perfectly happy to condemn racism, but if it’s one of our own, or could damage our reputation as a nation in any way, we try and brush it under the carpet as much as we can. It’s a mind-set that is indefensible, no matter how good a football player someone is.
And at the end of the day, it stands, pumping its chest on our television sets, setting an example for our nation.
When will we wake up?
Follow me on twitter @matt_volpi for news and views on football.