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Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011

PREMIER REPORT

Terry's reputation hangs in balance


LONDON — Tens of millions of pounds are riding on the outcome of the Football Association's inquiry into allegations that Chelsea and England captain John Terry made a racist remark at Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers.

Christopher Davies

Yes, that much. While everyone is innocent until proven guilty, until the F.A. delivers its verdict — and English football's governing body seems to move at snail pace — there will be doubts about what may or may not have been said.

Terry wants to become a coach when he quits playing, but should he be found guilty he, or anyone with such a charge on their CV, would find a future in football impossible. More immediately, Terry, who denies making any racist comments, would lose the England captaincy, while sharing a dressing room with Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Ashley Cole and other black or mixed race players would be difficult, putting it mildly.

For any charge to be successfully levelled against a player there must be at least one witness. On Thursday, The Sun reported that Cole will tell the F.A. that he heard no racist comments which, of course, does not necessarily mean none were made.

QPR felt strongly enough about the matter to make an official complaint and it's fair to assume they would not go this far without what they would consider evidence to back the allegations.

Terry, who regained the England captaincy from Anton's brother Rio, has been unfortunate in his career to be at the center of a number — cynics would say too many for comfort — of what he calls "misunderstandings," but nothing as potentially damaging as an allegation of racism.

A clip of Terry from the game against Rangers on YouTube with "bubble" words provided by a lip reader was hastily removed. Terry does not deny he used racist words, only that he said them to Ferdinand in a non-racist manner.

Terry said: "I thought Anton was accusing me of making a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively saying I never used that term."

It is, according to Terry, all a matter of context.

Chelsea has backed its captain though, it seems, without a full investigation. A week from Sunday, Fabio Capello names the England squad for the upcoming friendlies against Spain and Sweden — perhaps conveniently Rio Ferdinand is unlikely to be included because of ongoing fitness problems.

The F.A. is still conducting its inquiry into similar racist allegations by Manchester United's Patrice Evra against Luis Suarez of Liverpool. Racism will never be eliminated from society, but the football authorities must make a stand with a zero-tolerance policy against any player found guilty of the offense and a punishment seen to fit the crime.

***

I WAS WRONG about Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas. When he arrived from FC Porto he made a positive impression on me, but his behavior in recent weeks makes me believe he is another Jose Moaninho (no misprint).

He is following in the path of his fellow Portuguese in blaming the referee for defeats, which is predictable and pathetic.

Just about every neutral observer thought Chris Foy refereed the Queens Park Rangers vs. Chelsea game well.

Not AVB, who said after his side's 1-0 defeat: "It's pretty clear that mistakes were made. The same criteria were not applied to both sides."

Yes, mistakes were made, probably the biggest by Nicolas Anelka who underlined how he had scored only once in 23 games by missing a header from three meters — or was Foy somehow to blame for that, also?

Chelsea had two players sent-off and seven others booked, prompting a Football Association charge of failing to control its players, but presumably they were all injustices by a ref who was, in AVB's eyes, anti-Chelsea.

AVB said what he did with the knowledge any F.A. punishment would be the equivalent of detention after school — a fine and sitting in the stand a few rows behind the dugout for a couple of games. This of course is zero deterrent and is why managers continue to put a public boot into match officials.

Last season under Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea had just one red card. On Wednesday, Ross Turnbull became the fifth red card of AVB's two-month tenure at Stamford Bridge. The dark, ill-disciplined days of Moaninho, who AVB worked under at FC Porto and Chelsea, seem to be returning.

***

CARLOS TEVEZ is considering suing Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini for defamation of character, which will surprise those who do not believe Tevez has any character to defame.

Tevezgate is moving into murky legal waters. At the end of last season the Argentine was an icon at Eastlands, no player had scored more Premier League goals than Tevez over the previous two campaigns.

Now he is the embodiment of every negative perception of the overpaid footballer. His refusal to warm up against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena last month cost him a fine of two weeks' wages, around £500,000.

City have also said he is no longer entitled to a "loyalty payment" (don't laugh) of £6 million due to his persistent efforts to seek a move from Ethiad Stadium.

From hero to villain, Tevez's career is going down the drain fast. He is fighting against Abu Dhabi-based billionaire owners and there can be only one winner.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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