Monday, 24 October 2011

John Terry Sets An Example No-one Should Follow

There are a handful of players that cannot seem to avoid getting themselves in the headlines, one of who is our erstwhile national team captain, John Terry. Last night Terry felt the need to respond to internet claims of racial abuse allegedly directed towards Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea's defeat to QPR on Sunday.

'I've seen that there's a lot of comments on the internet with regards to some video footage of me in Sunday's game.

'I'm disappointed that people have leapt to the wrong conclusions about the context of what I was seen to be saying to Anton Ferdinand.

'I thought Anton was accusing me of using a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively, saying that I never used that term.

'I would never say such a thing, and I'm saddened that people would think so.I have known Anton for a long time and spoke to him about it after the game and there was no problem between us.

'I congratulated him on their win. He has not accused me of any wrongful remark. It was clear it was all a misunderstanding at the time.

'After the result today, I am saddened to be dealing with these wrongful allegations.

'I am the proud captain of one of the most internationally diverse teams in the Premier League and I absolutely believe that there is no place for racism in sport and indeed in any walk of life.'

No place indeed and whether any actual racial abuse took place only the best lip-readers or Anton Ferdinand will be able to confirm. What is clear is that the manner in which he responds to Ferdinand does little to help a neutral assessment of his cause.

Terry himself describes it as aggressive and you can imagine that being accused of such a slur would leave ay right minded person fuming. But his response does little to support his claim when you remember he talks of a long standing friendship with Ferdinand.

As I say it is possible he is remonstrating with Ferdinand about being accused of racism, at the start of the footage the view of Terry is blocked and he may well have said "I never called you a…." before his expletive laden outburst. Yet, to me, his closing comment which appears to be "you f****** knobhead", says much about the man as any alleged racist abuse does.

As does the amount of aggressive remonstrating he did with referee Chris Foy. Maybe if Terry focused on leading his team, rather than arguing with the referee - something we see frequently from him, he may have seen a more successful outcome for his team yesterday.

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing" Albert Shweitzer

Some say he is a man's man. A leader; with the spirit of St George coursing through his veins. Just look at the way he belts out the national anthem, full of gnarling aggression and posturing. That's all well and good, but that doesn't mean to say he is the best leader on the pitch.

As captain he has a right to ask the referee about decisions, but finger jabbing and a bile fuelled, spittle flecked rant in a referee's face is hardly the way to go about it. Chris Foy may have made mistakes yesterday, but such a response from the Chelsea captain is not in keeping within the respect campaigns. It sets examples that children and adults alike will see as acceptable in grassroots football across the country.

Referees are human, they make mistakes, we all do. I am sure John Terry does. Sadly, I can only think that someone pointing out his errors would receive the same treatment as he dished out to Foy yesterday. It is a one way communication street with Terry.

Pre 1970 Word Cup, then England captain Bobby Moore was accused of stealing an emerald bracelet from a hotel shop in Bogota (an accusation he was subsequently cleared of). When the news broke the whole country was in shock at such an accusation being made. If a claim of wrongdoing were made against the England captain these days the populace might still recoil in horror and anger, but would they be surprised?

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other" - John F. Kennedy

The thing is John Terry doesn't learn. He seems to exhibit an air of invincibility that suggests he believes that all his foibles, his undesirable behaviour traits and his failings don't count. That, with no shame and no embarrassment, they can be ignored. And somehow they are…..

Successive managers of both Chelsea and England managers seem willing to overlook these successive lapses. Respected people both within and outside the game allow Terry to rule their roost. Capello even lacking the courage to continue to blackball a man who openly questioned his capabilities to do his job.

Terry using a World Cup press conference to challenge Capello's authority as England coach and question his methods, like a trade union leader with the Prime Minister. Yet the former captain should have been on the same side as his national coach, not creating mutiny. An apology with little remorse followed, only for him to be re-instated as captain the following year.

Maybe this is a reflection of a lack of true leaders at Chelsea or in English football, both in terms of off the pitch management and on the pitch captaincy, or a failure to acknowledge that chest beating and badge kissing are only part of the leadership equation.

"The price of greatness is responsibility" - Winston Churchill

Footballers have to realise that they are role models, whether they or you like it or not. David James recently said in the Observer that children's role models should be parents and that footballers are too detached from their former lives to be seen to be viewed as role models by today's youth. Former Scottish professional Jack Ross has written that footballers didn't ask for the role model "role", they just inherited it from being very good at their chosen skill.

Whilst I agree with James' point regarding parents, they are only part of the issue. The media drip feed the masses with the next new singing star, the next stop model, the next street soccer star. Thus creating an image and lifestyle that young people aspire too. Even those that will never make it as a singer, dancer, sports star, model, are given a silver plated dream, until they are turned into the next national laughing stock or told that they are just not good enough.

It is this media frenzy that creates the interest, stimulates the wage demands and generates the endorsements and promotional work that footballers such as Terry benefit from. Being a decent human being and setting a standard (at the very least for on-pitch behaviour) is a small price to pay. Especially when the public are so generously funding your lifestyle.

Some may say, well people swear, people fight, get over it. Maybe so, but all we are doing is being complicit in allowing our national game to settle into a morass of over-paid, under-talented footballers, feted by those who surround them. Their egos and those of the men in charge of the game allowing the upper echelons of English football to fester in a self satisfied pit of indulgence.

The England team is slowly becoming more and more detached from the common football fan. A lack of true leadership at the FA and from the coach, a lack of willingness to learn and very few setting the example. How much longer before the Premier League and it's feted stars like Terry follow them down the same route?

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