By George Ankers
At two minutes to four on Sunday, Rio Ferdinand will, hopefully, shake Ashley Cole's hand and that will be that.
That the gesture which football needs to wrap up a deeply damaging saga will likely be shared between two men who were neither the offender nor the victim in the original incident says a lot about how John Terry's comments to Anton Ferdinand snowballed across the game.
It should not matter. Terry will be on the sidelines, continuing to serve his punishment, and Ferdinand the younger at home but, over 12 months from their initial altercation, it is time to leave the rotten business behind. A handshake between the once-removed protagonists will be as neat a bow as anyone will likely be able to tie around such a depressing box.
The Ferdinand brothers offered an olive branch on Wednesday, not shying away from their disappointment at how the issue has been handled since that day at Loftus Road but expressing a willingness to move on. And that is the only thing that can really be done.
Fans and observers could continue to debate the events of the past year for as long as they like. A delay in bringing judgement on the matter, the decision to take Terry instead of Rio to Euro 2012, whether the punishments from both the FA and Chelsea themselves were sufficiently severe.
But none of those things can now be changed and all are issues that have been warped by their extended period in the spotlight. For a percentage of football supporters that remains alarmingly large, these issues have become too much about the individuals concerned and fractured along lines of club loyalty.
Not enough Chelsea fans can see past the need to back their captain as if he were appointed by God and not enough others can divorce their opinions from an existing dislike for Terry and his team. Racism has become a stick with which to beat the other side – just as it did with the Luis Suarez affair.
This is not a call to bury the issue entirely. The past 12 months have proved beyond doubt that all is not well in football. As the Ferdinands indicated, there is much work to be done.
The discussions surrounding a potential breakaway union for black players are a depressing reminder that the game – and society – in England has not advanced as much as it thought that it had. A quick look on Twitter at messages sent to some black players following a below-par match confirms as much. Black managers are rarely seen anywhere across the leagues. There is also the clear and present prejudice against young Asian players in this country.
These issues are more enduring than the Terry case and do not deserve to be further marginalised by squabbles over who will shake whose hand. The FA, working with players of all races, must now begin to reassess how it deals with such problems and then tackle them head-on.
And, just as the governing body cannot be constructive if this one high-profile conflict rumbles on, the same applies to the fans. Neither those in the stadiums nor at their keyboards will do any good by looking to score points with songs and invective. Satisfied or not, this case is closed.
A mouth-watering clash between the Premier League's current top two is as good a time as any to step out from under the cloud and move the focus back to the football.
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