Terry, the Terraces and turmoil- civil rights & football

Histor-C returns, and surprise, surprise- is talking about football (sorry!)

With the European Championship wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, the new season is already upon us. Clubs have started pre-season commercial tours and began preparing for a fresh slate in the 2012-13 season. But the consequences of last season are still very much present. I’m not talking about Rangers and their financial woes (but, would like to state my opinion- being in the 3rd Division is totally right, they should start again- financial prudence and lessons in economics is more important than the club’s history), but rather the “John Terry” issue.

It just won’t go away. What he supposedly said was kept under wraps for a long time, but the event has led to the loss of the England captaincy, a dramatic change in the national team manager, the absence of a class central defender from Euro 2012 (let’s not kid ourselves about the “footballing reasons”), a controversial court case, dodgy tweets and now a TV documentary. John Terry may now face an FA charge after being found not guilty by the courts (let’s hope so).

The court case was very interesting- a “who’s who” of Chelsea FC was rolled out to support John Terry’s defence, including Ashley Cole. Now Ashley Cole has never exactly been a model of honesty and integrity- the move of “Cashley” to Chelsea itself, losing Cheryl (which many men are both shocked and delighted by), the air gun incident… I could go on. Ashley Cole’s testimony as Terry’s character witness led to accusations of being a “choc ice”- which can be interpreted as either a slur on his integrity or on his race. It seems like this issue just won’t go away- and rightly so.

I’ve spent the last two weeks reading up for my new job as I teach new topics at both GCSE and A-Level. It’s been geekily interesting! It’s been a while since I’ve learnt a new topic of History, and so it’s been really refreshing. At AS level I will be teaching about Civil Rights in the USA, from 1945-1968. It’s a topic I’ve had a generic understanding of without ever studying it in any real detail. It’s helped me understand how far civil rights has come in the last 50 years, and left me astounded at the legislation, segregation and attitudes that many had to fight against- whether it was police brutality, local governors attempts to avoid Supreme Court legislation or apathetic Federal Governments.

Barack Obama, whether re-elected or not, will always be a sign of the progress of the USA. Black, African American, Mixed Race- whatever term you use to describe his ethnicity- his rise to the White House proves that dramatic changes can take place. Martin Luther King’s dream seems to have come true.

But that makes me even more sad about the current state of football. Reading up on opinions expressed by white racists during the 1950s and 60s was truly shocking. But to read tweets by Liverpool fans directed towards Patrice Evra after his altercation with Louis Suarez in 2012 was, in some ways, worse. To see the “tribalism” in football where fans, team mates and even managers blindly support their players ahead of any sense of integrity or morals, is truly worrying. Although Euro 2012 ultimately went off without any big incidents, the Panorama programme that was broadcast before the tournament revealed worrying atmospheres in European stadia and even examples of anti-Semitism. To see this mindset in Poland, the home of many anti-Semitic atrocities of World War Two, was almost beyond belief.

But it’s right that this issue isn’t going away though, because this is one issue in football that can’t be swept under the carpet. Clark Carlisle, chairman of the Player’s Association, believes that black players shouldn’t have to shake Terry’s hand if they don’t want to, and that, despite the short-term chaos that it would inevitably cause, bad language should not be tolerated on the pitch. Integrity in football is all but gone- just talk to a football playing school student who will happily admit to you how he’ll bend any rule in order to gain an advantage. But if it’s not tackled, it will never improve. Whether it be bad language, the “what I can get away with” attitude or racism- it needs be dealt with.

I look forward to teaching about US civil rights, but teaching such a sensitive subject reveals the importance of teaching history- it’s not just about learning the past, but rather learning from the past. Football has such a prominent in today’s society which means that it is incredibly influential- for many young people in the country, it will impact their understanding of the world around them more than government- sadly even more than school. The challenge facing leagues, clubs and players is massive- beyond the pressures of success to fill both the trophy cabinet and the bank balance, football needs to take responsibility.


One response to “Terry, the Terraces and turmoil- civil rights & football

  1. Me and Lewis think you can always stay and teach Civil rights at Brimsham Green School!, It should be a civil right to have your History teacher remain!

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