We’re often reminded that football is ‘the beautiful game’ but such a phrase neatly overlooks the darker side of the sport.
With incredible riches available to the most popular players and the best teams, the pressure on them to deliver has never been greater. So perhaps it’s no surprise when the red mist occasionally descends.
That said, there’s no defence for those players who overstep the mark when making racist comments to opponents.
By all means, they should be competitive and ‘put themselves about’, but when it comes to making insults that concern a player’s heritage, that really does leave a sour taste.
Let’s take a look at five players who were found guilty of racism.
#1 John Terry
Back in 2012, John Terry was fined £220,000 and banned for four matches after racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, then of Queens Park Rangers. Though Terry came out immediately to deny making any offensive remarks, it caused tension within the England camp as Anton’s older brother, Rio, was a teammate of Terry’s.
Frank Lampard and Andre Villas-Boas, then manager of the Blues, sprang to the defence of the club captain, but with TV cameras picking up Terry calling Ferdinand a “f**king black c**t,” there was no wriggling out of the situation.
The Metropolitan Police also investigated the incident at the time, throwing further cold water on Terry’s assertions that things were taken ‘out of context.’ Chelsea continued to back their man and, at the time of writing, Terry still remains part of the first-team squad.
#2 Luis Suarez
In one of most infamous incidents in the Premier League, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez stunned Patrice Evra with his choice of vernacular.
At Anfield on October 15, 2011, during the Reds’ high-profile game against Manchester United, the Uruguayan was alleged to have used abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour contrary to FA rules, something he was later charged for.
Embarrassingly, Liverpool players, with Kenny Dalglish’s full authority, wore t-shirts in support of their team-mate in the warm up for their next match. Suarez’s only defence was that the pair had spoken first in English and then in Spanish, and that he had only called Evra something that his own team-mates would.
Frankly, it fanned the flames of the situation further and only added to the school of thought that Suarez would try anything to ensure he had the advantage over his opponent. For all of his incredible centre-forward play, biting players or racially abusing them is beyond contempt.
Just recently, Evra has started a campaign using a Panda, to try and rid football of the problem of racism, a full five and a half years after his own experience.
#3 Jonjo Shelvey
In September 2016, Newcastle United played Wolverhampton Wanderers, a game that was fairly nondescript saved for an incident involving Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey and Wolves’ Romain Saiss.
It had been alleged that Shelvey reacted to a comment about his bald head, caused by childhood alopecia, by calling Saiss a “dirty Arab c**t.” After a thorough investigation, the Newcastle man was banned for five games, fined £100,000 and sent on an education course, a decision which he accepted and didn’t appeal.
Though Shelvey did admit to telling Saiss that he had ‘smelly breath,’ he denied that there were any racist undertones to his comments, despite ‘compelling evidence’ provided from three Wolves players (Dominic Iorfa, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Matt Doherty) who were in the vicinity.
#4 Luis Aragones
Former player Luis Aragones shocked the whole of the football world when trying to motivate Jose Antonio Reyes ahead during training with Spain.
At the time, 2005, Reyes was a striker for Arsenal and one of his team-mates was Frenchman Thierry Henry. “Tell that n*gro de mierda (black s**t) from me that you are better than him. Tell him from me. You must believe in yourself; you are better than that n*gro de mierda,” was the disgusting bile that was picked up by Spanish journalists present at the training session.
Subsequently, every media outlet that covered football picked up on it and the news spread worldwide lightning-fast.
Though the evidence against him was compelling, Aragones still had the brass neck to suggest that the comments were a joke. The authorities obviously agreed for they fined him just €3,000 when a €22,000 fine and his sacking were expected.
#5 Milan Baros
Milan Baros was playing for Lyon in 2007 when he came up against Stephane M’Bia’s Stade Rennes. During the game, there was an unsavoury incident that was picked up by French TV that, and though Baros had to admit to it happening, he denied he was being racist.
The striker could be clearly seen pinching his nose and then waving his hand at MBia, suggesting that the latter smelled. It was an ugly act and MBia was convinced that it was racially motivated.
After the French authorities concluded their investigations, MBia received good and bad news. Baros had been reprimanded, suggesting that his version of events had been taken to be the truth, but he was only banned for three games for ‘unsportsmanlike conduct.’
Also Read: Racism in football: Is this a new business?