I watched the Liverpool-Tottenham Hotspur match last night. It was the first appearance of Luiz Saurez in eight games. He has now served his ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United.
Saurez is due to play against Manchester United in Manchester on Saturday. He may expect a hostile reception from 71,000 of the 76,000 crowd. Of course he is not a victim.
Patrice Evra was the victim and he got a hostile reception at Liverpool ten days ago. Shamefully Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool head coach chose not to condemn the excessive booing. The fans pay to attend a match. Dalglish was booed during his own career. It is “normal”.
Likewise on Sunday Manchester United played Chelsea in London. John Terry the Chelsea player who faces criminal charges in a London court in July for allegedly abusing Anton Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers) did not play thru injury but Rio Ferdinand played for Manchester United and was subject to booing every time he touched the ball. Rio Ferdinand is the brother of Anton.
In fairness Rio Ferdinand is very well followed on Twitter, the social networking site. And is on occasions controversial. It must be emphasised that he has not said anything prejudicial to John Terry’s upcoming trial. But the whole issue of Twitter and social networking sites is making the situation worse.
Simply put, people……..football fans….are taking sides and not just along lines of “football tribalism”. The issue of Race and racism is not far from the surface.
It is potentially toxic. The Liverpool-Tottenham Hotspur match was I thought ill-tempered. Tackles were harsh and there was occasional “afters” where players seemed slightly too happy at an opponent being injured.
There is no doubt that John Terry was genuinely injured when he missed the Chelsea-Manchester United match. But he was the elephant in the room…or pitch. Indeed the TV cameras often showed shots of him in the Chelsea crowd.
There had been some speculation that many or indeed all the Manchester United players would have a problem shaking John Terry’s hand in the pre-match ritual. Certainly it is unlikely that Rio Ferdinand would have done so.
John Terry is becoming increasingly isolated and even toxic…it is still five months until he appears in court …and there is a lot of stuff that can happen between now and then. England are also scheduled to be involved in “friendly” matches as they prepare for the European Championships in June.
Although stripped of the English captaincy, it is almost certain that John Terry will be selected for the European Championships. Rio Ferdinand has had some injuries this season and coming to the end of his career but he has played over eighty times for England and it remains possible that he will be a member of the England squad. And of course, Terry’s presence will be a challenge to his team mates….black and white…..who have been critical of him.
Race has never been far below the surface in the English game. And for at least a decade English Football has been congratualting itself on campaigns such as “Kick Racism Out”. It looks very premature now.