The Last Word: Week the FA jumped the Luis Suarez shark
The toxic presence of the Liverpool striker and John Terry make our national game a joke
Sunday 28 April 2013
The temptation is to laugh at their witless arrogance and warped sense of entitlement. But given what binds John Terry and Luis Suarez, beyond a fondness for victimhood and a flair for corrosive controversy, their toxic presence in English football is beyond a joke.
Each is conditioned to being excused excessive behaviour. Surrounded by apologists and those with a vested interest in maintaining an illusion of infallibility, they are encouraged to believe the shared stigma of racism is an occupational hazard, easily erased.
Some time this evening, when the rubber chicken is being digested and the paparazzi are being tipped off about after-parties in the billionaire's ghetto of London's West End, Suarez may even be acclaimed by his fellow professionals as their Footballer of the Year.
One trusts the compelling counter claims of Tottenham's Gareth Bale will spare the PFA such embarrassment, but whatever the outcome, Terry will be in his element amongst the alpha males at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.
He is accustomed to respect from his peers, and clearly takes his pantomime patriotism seriously. The strange mixture of spite, self-delusion, farce and opportunism which led him to renounce his international retirement is entirely in character.
His grandiose gesture was an appropriate conclusion to a week in which our national game jumped the shark. That phrase, coined in television to signal the moment an individual or institution begins a slow decline into irrelevance because of the dilution of the qualities which initially defined their success, has never been more appropriate.
Terry is such a polarising figure that if Roy Hodgson countenances his recall to the England team he will emphasise its triviality and vulnerability. The process of alienation from international football will accelerate, regardless of qualification, or otherwise, for next year's World Cup finals.
This would have a knock-on effect for the Football Association, an organisation which on the evidence of the Suarez farrago appears to be making policy on the hoof. It takes rare genius to look foolish when confronted by the street-corner evangelism embodied by Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, but somehow the FA apparatchiks managed it.
The disciplinary process had the correct outcome even if the nuances of the process invited scorn. Suarez's fate was sealed in cyberspace since, according to the 21-page report submitted by the Independent Regulatory Commission, trending on Twitter magnifies guilt and justifies retribution.
Such muddle-headed thinking betrays the FA as an outdated institution, clinging to the myth of its modernity. It also highlighted the wisdom of the Premier League's determination to distance itself from the disciplinary process. The furore ensured the appointment of an investment banker as its first new chairman for 14 years passed without adverse comment.
Football gets the rulers it deserves, because contrition has become a charade, a political ploy. The value of Terry and Suarez as commodities militates against censure by those closest to them. Rodgers's defence of Suarez revealed his lack of stature. Here was a bright and engaging man reduced to recycling the banalities of the life-coach industry. If his advocacy was supposed to confirm him as a surrogate Shankly it failed dismally, because he distorted the communal mentality of a proud football club which is undergoing an identity crisis.
The real scandal was being enacted simultaneously in Central London, where the Hillsborough families were obliged to be reliant upon the wisdom of a coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, who dismissed a despicable attempt by the Police Federation to delay new inquests for at least three years.
Terry and Suarez are transitory figures, nonentities in such company. One feels he can wear an England shirt on a whim. The other is too keen to wear a martyr's rags. Each is at a career crossroads. Should they move this summer, Terry to Turkey perhaps, and Suarez to Italy, they will not be missed.
Racing is not doing itself any favours
Move along, people, nothing to see here. Just a rogue operative working in isolation. Racing has cleansed the stables.
Perhaps, but protestations of innocence, following the rush to dispense summary justice, require greater justification than relief.
The drug testers who detected the guilt of Godolphin trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni in administering anabolic steroids at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket, deserve the greatest praise, and better support from their employers.
When the British Horseracing Authority uses the front page of the trade paper to suggest "we must keep Godolphin in Britain", as it did yesterday, doubts inevitably coalesce.
Paul Bittar, BHA chief executive, confirmed there are no plans to interview Sheik Mohammed, and emphasised "we hope this incident doesn't impact his investment or love of the sport in this country".
Racing must pray that it does not become an object lesson in the dangers of a sport becoming too closely aligned with one man, and too dependent on his patronage. More tests are planned on Godolphin horses this week, but the lack of tangential investigation is disturbing, and more dangerous to racing's welfare than perceptions of animal cruelty.
Racing must not merely say it is clean. It must be seen to be clean, without fear or favour.
It is probably too much to expect Danny Cipriani to have had a Damascene moment beneath a late-night bus following a pub crawl. There are worse fates than being consigned to celebrity Hell as Kelly Brook's boyfriend, but the alternative – being remembered as the greatest rugby player of his generation – is now beyond him.
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