The Hollow John Terry Racism Debate: After Cantona and Kitson, The Chelsea Captain Matters
I can’t sit here and claim I’ve never made a comment that I shouldn’t have on a football pitch. In the heat of a game, especially when things are going against you and you’re frustrated, you tend to say things that you shouldn’t.
For sure. Anyone who has played competitive sport at any levels would not like their muttering aired in the full glare of a media feeding frenzy.
I remember one training session at Bristol Rovers where I slaughtered a Welsh and a Scottish lad because they were winding me up. I was shouting all sorts of horrible things to try and provoke a response and I was bang out of the order.
Is it racism when an Englishman abuses someone from Scotland or Wales? Arsene Wenger says racism is being called a a paedo.
Former Reading striker Dave Kitson said racism was ginger:
“We talk about kicking racism out of sport but this is just as bad in its way.”
The Daily Star reacted to that with the headline “Kitson’s a right ginger whinger”.
The players’ association chief Gordon Taylor said, rightly:
“It belittles racism to compare the two issues.”
Was is racist when Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons told Manchester United’s Eric Cantona “Fuck off back to France, you French motherfucker”?
Tom Carty, who was at the match, is one of the senior figures in the British advertising industry and has worked with Cantona, whom he describes as ‘a warm, kind, genuine, creative man, a thinker’, on film shoots. He believes some good came of the kick… “It made people think twice about how they behave, about abusing a player,’ he says. ‘The behaviour of some fans was so bad, so tribalistic. There was so much hate. If Simmons had stayed in his seat, no one would ever have questioned his behaviour, but it needed questioning. Just imagine if a black player had done that in the 1970s – someone like Clyde Best when they were chucking bananas at him. There would have been a riot. But it would have changed the way people behaved, some good would have come of it. Maybe that’s what happened with Cantona.”
Yep. The white Frenchman was making a stand against racism – one that the blacks never could muster.
Former England winger John Barnes summed it up well when he said:
“It’s very ironic that it took a white Frenchman to bring home to the nation the issue of racism in football.”
Not everything is racism. Not everything comes loaded with centuries of persecution and negative stereotyping. Was Cantona striking a blow against inequality?
Back to Holloway:
Nowadays it is an even more sensitive issue than it was then and if John Terry has said something untoward, he will be in serious trouble – and quite rightly so.
No, Ian. Racism has always been a sensitive issue for those on the receiving end. Clyde Best did not kick a fan watching the game because he did not lose it and because – and get this, Ian and Tom Carty – when you are a minority not afforded the same chances in life as the majority you dare not fail.
I do have some sympathy for him. He is one of the most high-profile players in the country. There is pressure on him to win every single game he plays and to behave like a saint in the process.
No. He is expected to adhere to the rules of the game he plays, and should he breaks them to accept any punishment. That goes to very essence of sport. Holloway makes it seem as if footballers are held to a higher standard than the rest to us can ascertain. No. They are not a race part. The same cannot be said of the black footballer in the 1970s who represented his kind.
At QPR things went against Chelsea so badly that he became a very angry man. You can see that from the TV pictures. And when you’re angry, you say things you might not mean.
For sure. And you might resort to the language that most debases your opponent.
No one can condemn him yet because nothing is proven and no matter how much we love a good scandal in this country, we should not forget that people are innocent until proven guilty.
Of course that is true. Terry says his words carried no racial intent. He maintains his innocence. We have never heard him utter anything of the sort before. But his words have opened a debate about language, context and football.
We will see what happens but the sad thing is that this – and the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra incident – has tarnished the sport and it is football and its image which is suffering.
That much is true. But the media debate has little to do with actual racism, which is about inequality. The media debate is about football and what it is acceptable to say – even how the allegedly abused should just accept it. This is neither honest nor helpful. A zero tolerance approach to racism is vital. There can be no excuses because when there are understandable reasons for racism the forward strides towards equality are checked. And we know that it takes little provocation for some of us to resort to racism…