Jenny McCartney: We knew footballers were a crude lot already, so what exactly was the point of the John Terry trial?
WHAT exactly was the point of the John Terry trial, which resulted last week in the footballer’s acquittal on charges of having called the mixed-race QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, a "f------- black c---"? If its aim was to expose a degraded culture of crude insult at the heart of English football, it did so superbly. For all other purposes it appeared to be an absurdly heavy-handed attempt at resolution, which made the mixed-race players involved as uneasy and unhappy as everyone else.
According to Ferdinand’s testimony: “He called me a c--- so I called him a c--- back and he gave me a gesture as if to say my breath smelled. I said to him 'How can you call me a c---? You shagged your team-mate’s missus, you’re a c---.’?” Ferdinand then jogged off down the pitch making a fist-pumping gesture to imply sex, which he was later required to imitate in court. I should perhaps mention that both these gentlemen are intermittently regarded as role models in the football world.
Somewhere among all this feverish slinging of insults, Terry – so everyone, including the judge, agrees – said the words “f------- black c---” to Ferdinand. You will note that the word which triggered the court case is the only one not blanked out. Ferdinand, who did not hear this at the time, saw it later on YouTube, and felt that it was straightforward racial abuse. Terry’s account was that he believed Ferdinand had, wrongly, accused him of a racial slur, and had sarcastically echoed Ferdinand’s supposed words back to him. The judge concluded that, given the confusion, it was impossible to decide, and acquitted Terry.