A Lesson from the Premier League in What's Truly Offensive

By Liddle, Rod | The Spectator, October 29, 2011 | Go to article overview

A Lesson from the Premier League in What's Truly Offensive


Liddle, Rod, The Spectator


What is the appropriate sort of language, do you suppose, for the captain of the England football team to use in respect of his colleagues? This is an important issue and I, for one, will not sleep until a sort of resolution - a closure, if you will - has been arrived at. Because we have a dispute on our hands and at the heart of it is a moral issue. Needless to say, the police are investigating.

It is alleged that the present England captain, Mr John Terry, of Chelsea FC, addressed his opponent, Mr Anton Ferdinand, of Queens Park Rangers, with the wholly unacceptable words 'you f***ing black c***'. Mr Terry, for his part, has strenuously denied saying such a thing and insists it was simply the anodyne and perfectly inoffensive 'you f***ing blind c***'. Mr Ferdinand has lain low for the last few days, but it seems he knows what he thought he heard and has not sprung to Terry's defence.

Being called 'black' was what offended Mr Ferdinand, not being called a 'f***ing c***', of course. These two latter words have long since lost their power to offend anyone and, indeed, are sometimes used in a familiar and almost affectionate manner, as in 'How was the trip to Zimbabwe, Rowan, me old f***ing c***?' But black is not acceptable.

You would not call the Archbishop of Canterbury a black c***, even if he were black.

Perhaps particularly if he were black. This is another confusing issue, by the way, for Mr Ferdinand is not actually black, but of mixed race. So politically 'black' then, if not, you know, actually black.

The waters have been further muddied by Mr Terry's admission that he did use the words 'f***ing black c***', but in the context of a firm denial to Mr Ferdinand that he had used the words 'f***ing black c***' .

As in 'I didn't call you a f***ing black c***, I just called you a f***ing c***, you f***ing c***.' We are, I think, in Pete and Dud territory. I would pay an awful lot of money to hear Mr Terry and Mr Ferdinand's exchange in the tunnel following the game in which, with some bad feeling, they took part. It was a game in which Chelsea, to the great delight of almost the entire nation, unexpectedly lost. A fractious, nasty and very entertaining game. The entertainment came from seeing the rage on the faces of the likes of Mr Terry at being beaten, and later on the face of Mr Terry's manager, a usually smug young man called Andre Villas-Boas.

Almost the whole business was caught on film, as luck would have it. Except at the crucial moment in the brief filmed exchange between Mr Ferdinand and Mr Terry, another hugely likeable and intelligent footballer called Mr Ashley Cole walked between them, obscuring from view Mr Terry's thin, rodentine, lips. …

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