In London at the start of this week, Chelsea captain John Terry was brought before a court to answer allegations that he had racially abused Queens Park Rangers captain Anton Ferdinand during his team’s 1-0 loss last October.
If you read the report from today’s court proceedings, both players abused each other. Terry maintains that he didn’t call him a black [expletive] in the manner as he’s accused, while Ferdinand’s happy to admit that he brought a lot of the Chelsea captain’s past activity into play, too.
But although Terry won’t admit it, the atmosphere that both players played in on October 23rd, 2011 could only be described as an absolute bear pit.
Queens Park Rangers fans absolutely hate Chelsea. There is no other way of putting it. They've done so for years, and nothing's going to change that. If you don't believe me, go to a game with QPR fans. Most of the songs the fans sing aren't about loving their own team, they are about hating Chelsea, with the best one coming whenever 'The Scum' loses: “Never felt more like singing the blues, when Rangers win, and Chelsea lose oh the Rangers, you’ve got me singing the blues”. And believe us, it gets worse.
In the past, a percentage of the fanbase have celebrated every mishap in the life of Chelsea’s football club, to the imprisoning of assistant manager Graham Rix in 1999 for having sex with an underage girl, to a England players Ashley Cole and Mr Terry’s extra-marital activities.
Of course, QPR fans haven’t had a lot to sing about recently in scorn of their West London rivals, what with Chelsea owning matters on the football pitch and QPR languishing in the league below (or for a couple of seasons, two leagues below). Sure, the anti-Chelsea songs kept going, but Chelsea weren’t a rival in any shape or form. And to Chelsea, QPR's was bit of a joke.
So when Queens Park Rangers returned to the Premier League in May 2011 (and even that was a bit of a soap opera), QPR fans celebrated the fact that they were going to play Chelsea almost as much as they celebrated going to play 18 other clubs—including some of the best in the world.
Now, with money behind them like never before, QPR would be able to compete with their West London neighbours for pride as well as points once again.
The Premier League didn’t start too well for QPR, with the club gaining only two points at home (and two away wins, it must be noted) before the arrival of their hated neighbours on October 23rd.
Wind forward to October 23rd, 2011. To say the least, QPR fans had been looking forward to this match before any else that season.
And this game was going to be played in the mid-afternoon, on a Sunday, and on TV. Tickets to the compact Loftus Road Stadium sold like hotcakes. Fans drinking were in the pubs early that game—some of them even before opening time itself. After all, they needed some ‘voice juice’ before all the fun started, didn’t they?
While no-one expected victory, there was one player that every man, woman and child wearing a hooped shirt was determined to give their voice’s worth to: And that person was John Terry.
So when 4 p.m. rolled around, Loftus Road was a cauldron. Old Trafford, eat your heart out. The fans—and this writer is one of them—hadn’t seen the ground so full since the Great Promotion Party of 2011, and they were ready for war.
And so were the players. Before the game, QPR captain Joey Barton—determined to put Chelsea’s all-star cast off their games—told Terry as they were lining to come out “6-1? Was that really the score?” Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas, it seemed, had instructed the Chelsea players not to pay any attention to the Manchester derby which was being played a few hours before, but Barton was determined to tell them.
From the off, the game was a cauldron. Chelsea’s players—from the new ones like Juan Mata to the old hands like Frank Lampard—were given more and more abuse by the Loftus Road faithful, who only got louder when not only did QPR take the lead through a penalty, but ‘The Scum’ had lost two players to sending-offs within the first half.
But throughout the game, there was only one person who got the constant abuse, and that man was John Terry. For Terry, there were songs about his own extramarital sins, his mother (she was arrested for shoplifting), and sometimes his father (he was arrested for allegedly dealing cocaine). It was exceptionally personal.
During the game, we didn’t see anything particularly untoward, between Terry and the QPR players; although there were constant verbals coming from the hometown players, egged on by the faithful who refused to give Chelsea’s beautifully buttered-up players any quarter whatsoever. The fans didn’t care how many international caps or trophies you had, if you were a Chelsea player, you were a [add word here].
The Chelsea fans packed into the 3,000 away end were drowned out by a sea of noise, and even they were forced to admit that the ground was ‘like going back to the 1970s’ again (The 1970s, you see, was when football was governed by passion and the working classes rather than billionaires, who use football clubs as a tax write-off and a plaything more than a passion).
After the final whistle ended proceedings and QPR won, the ground exploded with a relieved joy. Sure, they should have defeated Chelsea by more bearing in mind their opposition only had nine men, but that didn’t matter. The final scoreline did: QPR 1, Chelsea 0.
“What an atmosphere”, we heard a Chelsea fan say to his teenage son on the way out. “I’m not taking you there again.” This writer couldn’t help but smile a little with pride.
As for the Terry-Ferdinand incident, nothing was really raised until after the game, when controversy started to reign. Twitter started to motor that there had been an on-the-pitch incident between Terry and Ferdinand, and racist language had been used (This writer had to go and watch the NFL game at Wembley, so we were only informed of what had happened afterwards).
Then, for the rest of the season, the anti-Terry chanting became louder and louder (and pro-Ferdinand chanting likewise), as QPR fans backed their man in the verbal brawl, even though Chelsea won a Cup game at Loftus Road and the corresponding league game—which Terry incidentally scored in.
And so, back to Monday. It’s been a while since John Terry’s alleged verbal attack on Anton Ferdinand. The case notes will reveal that neither player covered themselves in glory. But what they won’t tell you is that the QPR fans had a lot to do with why this game is getting replayed, again, in front of Westminster Crown Court.
If John Terry loses the case, the most that can happen to a convicted racist is a £2,500 (approx. $3,000) fine. He could then banned by England’s Football Association for eight games (as happened to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez after he racially abused Manchester United captain Patrice Evra), never play for England again (he ironically was one of the country’s better players in the recent Euro 2012 tournament) and lose any endorsements that he might currently have. After all, what sponsor would want to be associated with him again?
But if John Terry wins the case, then he leaves Westminster Crown Court with his head held high—although he might need some ear plugs for when Chelsea go to visit QPR on September 16th!
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