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Brian GlanvilleAs that celebrated comedian Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get in on the act.” Not least, when it comes to soccer, our revered Prime Minister David Cameron.

When a vote on the allocation of the 2018 World Cup was due, he recklessly deferred in Zurich on the eve of the vote to the deplorable Jack Warner, now properly exiled even from the dingy counsels of FIFA; who in any case double-crossed England by voting elsewhere. Now Cameron has been talking about setting up an inquiry into the racism in English  football. All plainly because of the furore aroused by the two unpleasant cases of John Terry and Luis Suarez.

Yet as we have been told, hard cases make bad law, and while the outrage elicited by Luis Suarez’s deplorable behaviour at Old Trafford was still in full cry, no one noted the significance of Peter Odenwingie’s fine hat trick for West Bromwich Albion at Molineux.

For the gifted Nigerian attacker would not have been at The Hawthorns at all were it not for the fact that he had been driven out of Russian football by the bigoted fans of the Lokomotiv Moscow club. When in evident despair he left for West Bromwich Albion, these deluded racists put up an elaborate banner to celebrate the fact, with a slogan thanking Albion, and the image of a banana.

Not for the first time, one must emphasise the endemic racism in Russian football, totally and cynically ignored by FIFA, with their discredited and unimplemented Kick Out Racism campaign. Racism which by his own admission prevented Holland’s Dick Advocaat, when managing Zenit Saint Petersburg, from signing any black footballer.

The Suarez-Evra affair was a deeply unpleasant one. Suarez’s crass refusal to shake Evra’s hand before the kick off lamentable; but who in this horrid affair was most gravely at fault? Surely it was the mindlessly defiant but now belatedly repentant Kenny Dalglish. As manager of Liverpool, enjoying there the enormous prestige that he does, he was heavily culpable for his initial attempt to combat Suarez’s suspension, not least with the idiocy of issuing his players with pro Suarez shirts.

A perverse attitude he maintained right up to the time of the post match Sky TV interview, where for once we had an interviewer with the courage of his convictions rather than the bland nonentities who usually feed players and managers with sycophantic drivel.

Yet even then Dalglish was still defensive and defiant. His ultimate abject apology came far too late to exempt him from serious blame. As for Suarez and the missing handshake, we know well enough that however dazzling a player he can be, he has a dark side. Ask the players of the Ghana team whom he cheated of victory in the 2010 World Cup, or the opponent he bit on the shoulder when playing for Ajax. Having said which, I still see the present practice of pre-match handshakes as an essay in irrelevance if not in outright hypocrisy however much Clarke Carlisle, now of the PFA, can burble in its favour on TV. In no time at all the handshakers can be kicking lumps out of each other. Which still, of course, doesn’t excuse Suarez in context.

But what of the other he insulted, Patrice Evra, whose vulgar dance of triumph at the end of the Old Trafford game, deliberately close to Suarez himself, was surely an essay in gratuitous vulgarity? Evra, indeed, is no angel; his mutinous behaviour with the French team in the last World Cup when it was hoped he might pour oil on troubled waters did him no credit at all.

As for the Terry-Anton Ferdinand affair, we must wait until July. But racism in our football isn’t remotely what it scandalously was.

By Brian Glanville

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