England manager attacks bosses over racism row

Fabio Capello (left) has publicly backed John Terry (right) over the race row © Getty Images

For the second time in two years, John Terry has been stripped of the England captaincy. This time the decision is out of his manager’s hands, and Fabio Capello is furious.

With the European Football Championships still four months away, one team’s tournament already seems close to crisis. A race row involving England’s divisive captain John Terry has spilled over into a spat between the team’s manager and the English Football Association (the FA).

Terry denies criminal charges of racist abuse during a match last December between his club, Chelsea, and rivals QPR. His trial was set for July, eight days after the end of Euro 2012 – which raised an unsettling prospect: a man under criminal investigation for racism looked set to head a multi-ethnic team, possibly including the brother of his alleged victim Anton Ferdinand.

Until, that is, the FA stepped in: Terry was free, they announced, to wear the white shirt of England; but not the captain’s coveted armband.

Now England’s manager, Fabio Capello, has given the controversy a further stir. Appearing on Italian television he complained that Terry was being judged before his trial had even begun. ‘It should be civil justice,’ he said, ‘not sports justice’ – though the FA deny that their action ‘infers any suggestion of guilt.’

There are few countries where the captaincy could cause such a public falling out. In many countries, such as Capello’s Italy, the armband has no significance except as a badge of distinction for the most experienced player.

In England, though, it is something of an obsession. The captain is seen as an ambassador, with responsibilities as a ‘role model’ off the pitch as well as on it; for the entire nation, not just the team.

The idea that football has a social role goes beyond this single issue. Charities often recruit footballers as positive examples – one recent drive from the Literacy Trust was headed by famous players like Theo Walcott and Owen Hargreaves.

And Tottenham Hotspur recently gained approval for setting up a school in their ground to teach children academic subjects alongside football. Football is not just a game – it is part of the fabric of our communities.

Fair game?

This is why the FA feel that Terry is unfit for the England captaincy: whatever his qualities as a player, the ugly race row compromises his role as an ambassador for football. Football is a public institution, they say, and the England captain a public figurehead; as such, he must remain beyond suspicion.

More pragmatic types (Capello is a prime example) object to these grand-sounding claims. Football can sometimes be put to social purposes, they admit, but let’s not get carried away: first and foremost it is a game, and the captain’s role is to ensure victory. Deciding the best man for the job, they say, is a football issue for a football manager – not a deep moral question.

You Decide

  1. Should John Terry be allowed to remain as England captain?
  2. Should England players be selected on the basis of their moral character or just according to their football ability?

Activities

  1. Design an advertising campaign to combat racism in sports.
  2. What qualities should we look for in a public role model? Think of someone who you think of as a good role model and describe what makes them suitable.

Some People Say...

“Footballers are terrible role models – they’re just overpaid louts.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Does football really have any social impact?
A lot of people would say that football’s main impact is negative: football hooligans are infamous for their violent behaviour, and in England extremist group the English Defence League is thought to have their roots in football culture. Just last week rivalries at an Egyptian football match spilled over into a murderous bloodbath.
That’s grim... is there any bright side?
At its best, football is often cited as one of the great binding forces for modern communities. A 2010 report showed that when football clubs worked at links with their communities, supporters valued them highly as a social and cultural institution. For peaceful fans, gathering together with neighbours to support a common cause is part of the pleasure of supporting a team.

Word Watch

European Football Championships
Usually known as the ‘Euros’, this tournament pits Europe’s best international sides against one another once every four years. The first Euros were held in 1960 and won by the Soviet Union. Spain, the current champions, are favourites to win again this year.
Armband
The captain is distinguished from other players by a strip of fabric worn around the arm. The only official responsibility this carries is calling the coin toss to decide who starts the game, or who takes the first penalty in a shootout. However, it is often said that the captain’s leadership on field can be a decisive factor in the success of a team.
Literacy Trust
The Literacy Trust is a charity that aims to ensure that everybody in the UK is competent in reading and writing. Their recent campaign ‘Premier League Reading Stars’ involved top footballers picking their favourite books and using them to teach reading in schools.

Subjects

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.