England captain Terry in ‘battle for his life’

England football captain John Terry faces the “battle of his life” after prosecutors said he would face criminal charges over claims he racially abused QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, Britain’s press said Thursday.

Wednesday’s announcement, which came a day after Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, proves, however, that British football is taking a lead in dealing with racism, Fleet Street agreed.

“In the age of the celebrity footballer, few players have commanded more coverage… than John Terry,” said the Independent’s Sam Wallace.

“But the charges laid against him yesterday by the Crown Prosecution Service represent the battle of his life.”

All newspapers were in agreement that Terry would never captain England again if found guilty, and Wallace also suggested it would dash his long-term dream of managing Chelsea, his domestic club.

Popular tabloid The Sun said the ruling was a “nightmare” for the Football Association (FA), particularly if the matter is adjourned when Terry appears in court on February 1, four weeks before England play the Netherlands in a friendly match.

In that event, the paper’s chief football writer Shaun Custis called on Terry to “do the decent thing and step aside”.

“There need be no presumption of guilt,” he added. “It would simply be best for the national game.”

The Times editorial said the action taken over Terry and Suarez had sent “a very clear message that racism where proven will not be tolerated in British football”.

“Certainly compared with the appalling treatment that black players often receive in Italy and some of the Eastern European countries, England is a civilised place to play,” it added.

The Guardian also ran a positive editorial, arguing that the attention given to the two cases showed how far the game had come but that Liverpool and Chelsea should have been more cautious in lending their blanket support to the two players.

“Absolutely no one believes that racism is a more common scourge in English football today than it was a generation ago,” it said.

“English football has worked hard to combat racism. But all that good work can be undone by one shortsighted act,” it added.

“Neither Liverpool nor Chelsea are therefore right to say that they will support their players, whatever the outcome.”

The two incidents also highlighted the “complex and contradictory history of racism in English football”, Times chief sports writer Simon Barnes argued.

Throughout their history, English football grounds have been “breeding grounds for pestilence” and “places where racial hatred could be hymned to the skies without restraint or rebuke,” he wrote.

However, at the same time the game helped lower racial tensions across the whole country and created taboos which were later adopted in all walks of society, he added.

“Racial insults were once routine: now they’re so shocking that the England captain must go to court.” — Sapa-AFP

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