Like many people, I was stunned and amazed by FIFA president Sepp Blatters’ recent comments regarding racism and the fact that it can be addressed with a simple handshake. Although I certainly look forward to employing a ‘high-five officer?’ type defence the next time I’m being done for speeding.
However, whilst like most right-minded football fans I long for the day when the bumbling old bastard is finally levered from the gravy train that we are busy fuelling, I am slightly bemused by the holier-than-thou attitude that has been adopted by certain elements within the English game in recent days.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally support the stance being taken by some of the players and officials who are speaking out against Blatter but the question nagging at me is why were those same voices so silent on the subject of John Terry?
After all, everyone knows Sepp is a bit of a fool and by his words has undoubtedly set back any notion that FIFA is seriously interested in the issue of racism. But the issue of Terry is in many ways far more serious because as I wrote last week, there is a great deal more at stake.
Since the dark days of the 80’s no footballing nation has been as vocal in its condemnation of racism within the game than England. By our actions we have earned the right to stand firm and just on the moral high-ground and that has given us the right to speak out against racism in nations from Spain to Russia and in not one case have they been able to throw anything back at us.
Yet now they can.
Forget the notion of innocent until proven guilty, by allowing an alleged racist to lead the national side against Sweden the FA have undermined both the severity of the problem and our stance on racism with the result that our integrity has been damaged. And it could get even worse because we now face the very real possibility of the current England captain being a convicted racist. That would remove at a stroke our right to preach to anybody about racism ever again. And without us on that moral high-ground, it’s a bleak and above all empty place.
Did no one in the hallowed halls of the Football Association consider that? Was a meaningless friendly really worth what they have done?
But equally, why didn’t those players who are now being so vocal about Blatter speak out then? They’re not stupid, they must have realised the possible implications involved with his selection.
The only answer of course is that they were afraid. No one likes a grass do they especially when the guy involved is one of your own. That’s not a problem they have with Sepp of course, because everyone hates him right?
Yet Anton Ferdinand is also one of their own and he deserves better from his peers as does every black player from Clyde Best and Paul Canonville through to the 8 year old on Hackney Marshes and they didn’t get it when they needed it the most. That’s beyond shameful.
Racism continues to be one of the great evils of the modern game and has to be confronted at all levels and at every opportunity. But to quote the Irish politician and orator Edmund Burke, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.
That says an awful lot about what has (and has not) been going on in recent weeks.