Ugly Reflection In The Mirror - Arrivederci Fabio
It would be easy to criticise former England manager Fabio Capello for his team's poor performances. But why waste time? Had he not resigned, he should have been fired by the Football Association for his embarrassing and damaging response to what should have been a routine decision.
Yes, he had been unable to get the England team to perform in a major tournament. But his key failure was his not-so-principled stand for management control while defending a talismanic skipper caught in a race row.
Well done to FA boss David Bernstein and his board for acting as leaders should. Their decision to strip John Terry of the captaincy made a clear and decisive statement. They could not allow a player embroiled in a racially tainted court case to represent the nation as our captain.
Innocent until proven guilty, the Terry defenders are saying. Certainly, in court. But not in management terms. There are certain areas - things like, for instance, involvement in a messy tax fraud case - which should preclude one from high office until they are resolved. Dare I mention Terry Venables, or have we forgotten how that one ended.
To hear, Capello's defence of Terry was outrageous. Why such angst about losing the Chelsea skipper? It's something I often see with football managers, a singular focus on what happens with the round ball. Instead, Capello should have been wondering what impact his comments would have on the terraces.
Why did the former England manager not save some of his sympathy for the Ferdinand clan, at the middle of the mess, who have suffered endless racial humiliation from 'supportive' fans of the game?
What exactly was Capello planning to say to Rio Ferdinand, Darren Bent, and other players likely to be concerned about his overzealous support of a captain not entirely renowned for his honesty?
Thankfully, those players won't have to go through such an episode. And we won't have to listen to Capello anymore.
To all who doubt the importance of the beautiful game, keep in mind Bill Shankly's famous quote. "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."
It perhaps is fitting that Mr. Capello leaves as the ugliest face of football emerges. After all, his team played a decidedly ugly brand of football.
Even the great Sir Alex Ferguson must be careful trying to navigate choppy racial waters. His clumsy call for "authorities" to make a strong stand against racism sounded hollow at best. Tinged as it was with support for Capello, Ferguson drew on a popular refrain in defence of his own credentials.
"I have had some fantastic black players, absolutely magnificent black players, and with every one of them I have enjoyed my working relationship with them."
For a man that also told CNN he did not "understand at all where it's coming from," I suppose this is no surprise. How pleasant for those who don't have to be called a monkey, or listen to racial slurs as vulgar as they are old.
The real issue here is that so many people in football are so self-conscious about the issue of racism. It's as though they look in the mirror and see an ugly reflection. When the chance comes for the game to "take stock", as Sir Alex so aptly put it, what was his answer? He wants the same authorities he so often decries to clamp down hard.
Yet what advice did he suggest to his own player Rio Ferdinand, the brother of the black player at the centre of Terry's troublesome court case? Stand firm perhaps? Speak out, challenge injustice, be a leader? No. Turn the other cheek, Ferguson suggested. Rise above it.
His stance is contradictory and extremely disappointing, just as it was to hear Kenny Dalglish suggest that Luis Suarez should never have been sanctioned.
Again, people of colour are left dissatisfied. Not because racism occurs, but because some white brothers and sisters fail to deal with their own mess and educate their children properly. Too often, our pale cousins look at racism through their own prism. They look in the mirror, see a picture that looks like them, and quickly head in the opposite direction for fear of being associated with it.
All we're asking is that our leaders lead, sensitively. Stop thinking racism is somebody else's issue. That it's something to be personally ashamed of. We want it defeated, actively fought against, challenged at every turn. Do that, and we will all be happier.
Yet it is not just race. Even amid such turbulence, another type of intolerance is equally unsettling.
On the same day Capello resigned, former Man U wunderkind Ravel Morrison was being hauled over the coals for homophobic views all too common in football dressing rooms. His repugnant tirade made via Twitter was later deleted, but as a recent signing for West Ham, something tells me he's going to be right at home in the East End.
Talking about racism is one thing, but for many in football, gay rights is just a step too far. In that most masculine of environments, who wants to even think about gay love or same sex engagement?
Ravel, here's something to remember.
For as long as I have been around the game, I have always believed that many players and managers are firmly in the closet. The stats support that conclusion. Some 5000 male professional players exist in the UK, yet not one is publicly gay.
According to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), which surveyed close to 11,000 people in Britain between 1999-2001, 8.4 percent of men had had a same sex sexual experience. That means that in a Premier League squad of 25, at least two on average would at least have experimented.
Why bring this up? Because it's another of those subjects that the beautiful game doesn't want to address. A recent BBC article focused on the silence regarding gay footballers, some of whom have had cause to call publicist Max Clifford fearing that they might be outed.
We should remember what happened to Justin Fashanu, the first black EPL player sold for a million pounds, and the first to be openly gay. He committed suicide in May 1998.
Treated abysmally by the late Brian Clough, who learned and disapproved of Fashanu's sexuality long before it came out in the press, his career tanked at Nottingham Forest and never recovered. When he came out in 1990, his brother John - a celebrated member of Wimbledon's Crazy Gang - gave a vicious interview in The Voice newspaper, publicly labelling Justin a family outcast.
Perhaps Morrison should learn from John Fashanu's mistake. John now has to live with his harsh response, and the events that followed.
"I'm not homophobic and I never have been," said John recently to the BBC. "At the time I was certainly cross with my brother. I sleep at night wondering all the time, could I have done more and I keep coming up with the answer, yes I could have done more. Does that console me? No. We've cried for nearly two decades for Justin, it's enough."
"It's enough" should equally be said to those in football who still drag outdated prejudice around with them. In cases like Terry's and Luis Suarez's, a strong stance must be taken. At least the FA has given that message to some degree.
That's enough, Mr Capello. Arrivederci.Written by Delroy Alexander
.The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital England Site Journalists.
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