Sunday Sermon

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Good afternoon.

The only real story of the weekend is the aftermath of the John Terry trial. A lot of people have approached this rather naively armed only with popcorn waiting to find out if the King Of The Chavs was officially a racist or still just only an unofficial one.

Football isn’t isolated in sport in that it’s dominated by people that aren’t mentally gifted in a conventional, academic sense. Anyone who caught a clip of a boxer speaking this weekend can vouch for that.

History has demonstrated that what you need more than a university education is that thing lovingly referred to as a footballing brain. Terry is undoubtedly a gifted footballer, but a non runner in the human race. The litany of abysmal goings on that have surrounded him both on and off the pitch for years are well documented. 

Modern football is the biggest thing on the planet outside of Islam. Beamed seemingly into every dwelling on the planet from the two up two downs of old England, onto plasma tellys in the world’s most expensive hotels, into communal sets under corrugated sheets in the ‘developing world’.

  • Former Sheffield United player Ched Evans was jailed for raping a 19 year old girl last April.
  • Luis Suarez recently earned himself an 8 match ban and £40,000 fine for racially abusing Patrice Evra. 
  • Danny Hylton of Aldershot Town was suspended for the first eight games of the 2012/13 season after being found to have racially abused opponents twice against Barnet; actions which led to a brawl at the end of the game for which both clubs were fined.
  • Wayne Rooney received a 2 game ban for swearing down a Sky Sports camera live at a game against West Ham.

I pick these examples from hundreds simply to illustrate that no matter what level they are at, the top or the bottom, many footballers think they can do what they want. 

Be it whizzing in a pint pot in a nightclub, engaging in group sex (preferably whilst being filmed on a mobile phone) or parking a sports car in but a humble disabled bay;  many footballers think they can do what they want.

The summing up of Judge Howard Riddle in the Terry case was a thoroughly miserable read. The unrelenting hate of the language. But what was almost as miserable as plowing through the weasel like defense of Terry was the revelation by the Judge that Aton Ferdinand clearly did not wish to be participating in the trial

Do I want football sanitised? No, of course not. But I want those who pollute the game routinely punished. These scumbags need to be reminded that being on a football pitch or being associated with the game – they are still subject to the laws of the land like the rest of us. What’s at the centre of this isn’t some two bob blogger getting his knickers in a twist about half a dozen uncouth millionaires.

These people are cultural icons for countless millions. If Lionel Messi is shown sipping a Pepsi, people buy more Pepsi. If Gary Lineker is shown eating crisps people buy more crisps. The influence isn’t imagined. It’s very, very tangible. It’s not a seedy underbelly, acting disgracefully is now part and parcel of ‘the game’.

The Adebayor song wasn’t just racist, it was pitifully sad. The ‘Sol Campbell song’ is equally nasty. And I think this week football has stumbled to a crossroads. We can take the path of denial. This is where we don’t accept the throwing of bananas, but it’s ‘ sort of okay’ to call someone a black ____ in the heat of the moment.

The alternative path  is zero tolerance. In whatever small way you can help football take that path,  I urge you to do so.

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