Official ‘Anti-Racism’ Is Ruining the Beautiful Game
Ostensibly, it doesn’t look like much of a story, even in footballing terms. During England’s Euro 2012 warm-up game against Belgium at the weekend, England defender Gary Cahill suffered a broken jaw. This, unsurprisingly, ruled him out of the Euro 2012 tournament. In response, the England manager Roy Hodgson replaced Cahill with a player from the official stand-by list, young Liverpool defender Martin Kelly. (After all, what else are stand-by lists for?) And that, you would think, would be that.
But we are talking about football in the twenty-first century here. It is not simply a beautiful game; it is also an enlightening game, a means to educate those who watch and enjoy it. In short, football has become an opportunity for those who know best to address those who know least: the fans, the supporters. And this is where, according to the army of campaigners, journos and ex-players who make up his critics, Hodgson has made a mistake. By selecting certain players and omitting others, he has sent out the Wrong Message.
Apparently, Hodgson has not made best use of his power for good. More specifically, he selected a squad containing John Terry, a man currently awaiting trial for ‘a racially aggravated public-order offence’ following comments made to Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand during a match last autumn. And to add public-order insult to racially aggravated injury, Hodgson omitted Anton’s brother, long-time international and one-time captain Rio Ferdinand, from the squad - this despite the injury to Cahill. In the eyes of his detractors, Hodgson has effectively selected a racist and ditched a proxy victim - all to avoid conflict in the England camp. If football is meant to set an example to the ill-educated hordes that watch it, this, Hodgson’s critics contend, was not meant to be it.