The trial may drag on for a bit longer, but the outcome is already inevitable – everybody loses.
That John Terry and Anton Ferdinand are the public faces of this saga is inconsequential, it’s British football as a whole which is being tried at Westminster Magistrates Court. Regardless of who said what, at whatever time, in whichever tone of voice, this affair is just shining a light on how dirty and rotten the game is as a whole. Every aspect of this is ugly.
A former England captain is accused of being a racist, his alleged victim has acknowledged goading him with all manner of taunts and barbs, supporters stand-by whichever party lies closest to their own club loyalties, and the sport as a whole – through the level of coverage and the Crown Prosecution Service’s intervention – looks self-important and bloated to the level of parody.
This is the Premier League that we’re so very proud of is it? These are the role-models who adorn the bedroom walls of children up and down the country? It’s embarrassing.
Whatever judgement is handed down is irrelevant, the football public as a whole have already determined guilt and innocence. John Terry could’ve spat in Anton Ferdinand’s face and the vast majority of Chelsea fans would still sing his name and proclaim his innocence at Stamford Bridge. Likewise, Ferdinand could admit that he fabricated the whole affair, and the taunts of ‘you know what you are’ would still rain down on Terry at every away ground in the country next season.
For the most part, opinions don’t exist in football anymore; prejudices and bias are established through club loyalty, and everything else is derived thus. We know how the Terry/Ferdinand story ends, because we’ve already seen it played out with Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. Suarez found guilty and charged, Evra booed at Anfield for having been abused by a Liverpool player – add in the Merseyside’s club’s downright irresponsible rebuttal, and you can clearly see the root of such tribalism.
The problem with football now, is that it thinks itself to be above everything else. Be it economic turmoil, social disharmony, or myriad political issues; the game trumps everything. Your team, your players, your club, your sense of identity – everything else follows on. There’s a mythical romanticism about all of that, and football fandom is euphemistically described as a ‘chance to belong’ to something. Maybe that was once true, but now the level of fanaticism has drifted towards something much more sinister. It’s not just the ‘hardcore’ element of each club, it’s really everyone – we’re all guilty of it.
In any other situation, if someone described the same set of beliefs and prejudices that your average football fan holds, and detailed his or her reasons for having them, the lunatic klaxon would sound in your head and you’d think that you were talking to a cult member.
As for the players at the heart of this? There incidental really, because it’s not about who they are, more what they represent. They’re the product of a game which has been elevated and hero-worshiped beyond all reasonable context. Poorly educated teenagers who never grew up, heralded and praised by a moronic majority who can’t think for themselves.
Try and look from the outside at the game in this country, and you can see just how Cancerous it has become.