All credit for once to Geoff Thompson for emerging suddenly from the shadows to remind our benighted government that they interfere in the running of football at their peril; risking the wrathful intervention of FIFA who to their rare credit forbid such meddling on pain of suspension of the nation association.
Prime Minister Cameron seems to have learned nothing from the fiasco of his courting the repugnant Jack Warner – now in still more trouble after awkward questions have been asked about the disappearance of a lot of money seemingly entrusted to him for the relief of the Haitian disasters – over the allocation of the World Cup. That got Cameron and England’s bid predictably nowhere, Warner typically betraying his promise to vote for England in the 2012 allocation of the tournament.
Undaunted, Cameron, who seems to find a new mini summit to distract him from the major business of state every week, has zeroed in on the supposed prevalence of racism in English football. When a less superficial study of the situation would surely convince him that despite two recent somewhat lurid cases, such racism has thank goodness notably and sharply declined from the fearful bigotry of previous years.
Those two cases of course were that of Luis Suarez, who compounded his gratuitous insults to Patrice Evra by deplorably refusing him to shake hands with him before the Liverpool-Manchester United game. (Not that Evra, no angel during France’s embarrassing World Cup 2010 antics, distinguished himself with his provocative celebrations near Suarez after United’s win.)
Arguably worse than Suarez’s conduct was surely the crass behaviour of Kenny Dalglish who far from pouring oil on troubled waters, disgracefully campaigned, even down to offensive T-shirts, on Suarez’s behalf.
The other horrid affair has been than of John Terry, though until his case comes to court next July, he is surely innocent until proved guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand; who didn’t actually hear what he said that day at QPR.
If Cameron and His Master’s Voice and pliable sidekick Jeremy Hunt would cease babbling about racism here and look at the broader picture, they’d have noticed that almost contemporaneously, Chelsea’s black players were shamefully abused at their hotel by Napoli fans while police stood by and did nothing about it at all.
They might also have noted, only weekend, that when Wolves in a clumsy abortive attempt to find a new manager at short notice and for short duration, turned to their black assistant coach Terry Connor, he had immediate success with a Wolves team which came back to draw with Newcastle after a 2-0 deficit.
While on the same day, Nigerian Peter Odemwingie drilled holes for West Bromwich in the Sunderland defence, having been forced out of Lokomotiv Moscow by the club’s rabidly racist fans who celebrated with an insulting banner.
Of black managers, Chris Hughton is surely a refulgent example, quietly restoring Newcastle to the Premiership after the local idol Alan Shearer had failed to keep them up only to be mindlessly sacked for his pains. And proceeding to work small wonders at a Birmingham City club starved of resource its supposed owner waiting trial for alleged malfeasance in the Far East.
Stuart Pearce for England, and the coming Euros? He has loudly recommended himself, while picking an England team against Holland bizarrely giving youth its supposed fling at a time when every international match is precious.
He wanted to see, he said, whether these youngsters could deal with the “magnitude” of the occasion. But why, in the name of logic, try them now?
Pearce is a volatile figure. He reminds us that he played for England in a World Cup semi-final in Turin (1990). Yes; and missed a vital penalty in the shoot out. And were he in charge of England in the ensuing World Cup qualifier against tiny San Marino, then shades of that awful first minute embarrassment in Bologna when his inept back pass gave the minnows the opening goal and reduced a press box filled with English journalists to uncontrollable laughter. Harry certainly appears the better bet; but Spurs’ debacle against Arsenal was hardly a calling card.
By Brian Glanville