Rio Ferdinand appeared in court this week charged with racial abuse, but I’d be very surprised if he were found guilty based on what has happened, and very sad about that fact. There are many faces to racism and many forms it can take, and while the screaming skinhead is an unpleasant and recognisable shape it takes, the more insidious types are the most damaging in my eyes. Rio is not guilty of racially abusing someone of a different colour, but rather trying to suggest we are divided on race grounds.
My favourite author growing up (and still) was Terry Pratchett, the most brilliant and coruscating genius of modern English fiction, and in one of his books (on football, remarkably) the phrase ‘crab-bucket’ turns up several times. It basically means that you can keep crabs in a bucket with no lid, as if one should happen to climb out the rest will pull it back, and when applied to humans relates to the negative attitude some sections can have toward achievement.
What Rio has done in endorsing the description of Ashley Cole as a ‘choc-ice’ is to suggest that someone could aspire to being white while being black, and silently that races have a responsibility to stick together in these situations, as if Cole should have backed Anton Ferdinand based on his skin colour, rather than the truth. Isn’t that what John Terry was in strife for in the first place? Still, it isn’t the first time a man the media like to portray as an ambassador has let himself down.
Obviously there is the drugs ban, which must be considered a failed test when put alongside anecdotal evidence from the time, and then also the glorification of gangster lifestyle in funding a film on the subject. I won’t list all of the times Rio has acted questionably, but it is odd that he should be held in such high regard by a media that is so scathing toward other players.
Simply put, this current spate of racial incidents helps nobody, and especially not the game. Players like Rio and John Terry do have a responsibility to be examples to younger men, making their way in the world, and need to act in a more adult fashion. For a man who has captained England and Manchester United not to recognise the danger in endorsing such a message shows the shocking gap in education between footballers and other athletes, like golfers of F1 drivers, and the game needs to bridge it for them, otherwise this could become a nasty trend.
Image Credit: the sport review