By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor
It has not been the greatest week in football’s bid to prove it has moved with the times. In Britain, the England captain has spent the last week fending off accusations of racism against another player, while Saturday night brought Inter fans’ attempts to drag the game back into the gutter with a scandalous banner mocking the Heysel dead.
John Terry’s clash with Anton Ferdinand has been all over the news since last Sunday’s west London derby between QPR and Chelsea at Loftus Road. His apparent catcall of “you black c***” in the direction of Ferdinand – the brother of an England team-mate and supposed friend, no less – has resulted in a week of recriminations and denials which are likely to split dressing rooms once more.
Terry rightly remains innocent until proven guilty, and while it is hardly the first time his qualities as a morally upstanding member of the community have been called into question, this is by far the gravest accusation to be levelled at him. Judgements should be saved until an outcome has been determined, and it remains to be seen whether video evidence passed on by Sky to the FA provides any further clarity on what actually happened amid the claim and counter-claim of the past week.
John Terry v QPR | A TV recording has been passed to the FA
But the very intimation that racism is still an issue on Premier League pitches has to be of huge concern to the authorities involved, particularly against the backdrop of the significant strides made by the ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign since its founding in 1993.
Now is not the time to be complacent about racists in the game, especially given the wave of condemnation which has come with the accusations. That needs to be used to drive home the message further regardless of the verdict in this case. If Terry is proven guilty, he should have the book thrown at him. His alleged behaviour has no place in society, let alone in multicultural Chelsea and England dressing rooms.
Just as the dust appeared to be settling on the Terry affair for a weekend at least, Saturday night’s Derby d’Italia brought the latest chapter in the long-running battle between Inter and Juventus supporters. However, the home fans’ banner mocking the 39 people who died at Heysel went way beyond friendly rivalry, dragging football back to a bygone age from which every single person in the world should be trying to steer it away.
The banner, reading ‘Acciaio scadente: nostalgia dell’Heysel’ (Poor quality steel – nostalgia for Heysel) was in relation to the recent news that there had been apparent concerns over the structural integrity of the new Juventus Stadium in Turin.
To mock opposing fans regarding results on the field or to make signs pertaining to the continued arguments over Calciopoli are one thing, but to use the deaths of 39 innocent people for supposed amusement is entirely another.
|"Poor quality steel - nostalgia for Heysel"
- What the Inter banner read
That Juventus supporters responded with chants mocking the late Giacinto Facchetti – an Inter playing legend and club president – was neither big nor clever. That the Nerazzurri fans spent time thinking up the wording, spraying it onto a banner, and – presumably – going to great lengths to smuggle it into the stadium, is utterly deplorable.
Inter should be hit with massive fines; big enough to cause serious ructions, both for the actions of their fans and for the incompetence of their stewarding practices in allowing the banner to get past. If the sign was indeed checked outside, the very mention of Heysel should have caused alarm bells.
While European football’s leading lights come together once more this week for another Champions League matchday, two of the top countries on the continent have much more serious issues to address. Failure to do so will result in bigger backward steps than kicking a football around can repair.