John Terry and Chelsea emerged triumphant from another hostile reception yesterday as his former manager Jose Mourinho insisted he could not be regarded as a racist and never was by the club's contingent of black players.
Chelsea's captain braved a barracking from home supporters at the Emirates as his side won 2-1 with goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. Terry will also be heartened by the support he received from Mourinho
"Chelsea had a squad in which we had 12 African players," said the Real Madrid manager. "It was a fantastic squad and he had always a great relation with every one of them. Please don't say he is a racist, because I know what I am saying. Didier Drogba will say, Gérémi will say, Claude Makélélé will say, all of them will say he is not a racist."
Mourinho did, however, suggest that Terry had been guilty of abusing Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers last year, for which he has incurred a four-match ban and heavy fine from the Football Association.
"It can happen that during a football match – because sometimes it's more than a game – sometimes you have reactions that don't represent what you are really," he told CNN.
"Probably, he had a racist comment or attitude against an opponent and, sometimes in football, we look to our opponents in the wrong way. But to pay, he has to be punished."
Mourinho declined to react to criticism by his club's president, Florentino Perez, who said yesterday: "He tells us he has managed clubs at the highest level but I tell him that first is Madrid, followed by Madrid, and then comes Madrid, such is the difference between us and the rest. We understand our own culture, those coming from outside don't."
Terry and his advisers want to see the full judgment of the FA's tribunal panel that found him guilty before deciding whether to appeal. It is likely to be released later this week. In the meantime, he is free to play, and yesterday he appeared unfazed in Chelsea's victory at Arsenal that extended their lead at the top of the Premier League as United surprisingly lost 2-3 to Tottenham at Old Trafford. At Craven Cottage, Manchester City came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage.
Chelsea's manager, Roberto Di Matteo, who spoke to Terry before deciding to pick him, said: "I think he was the right choice. He showed his leadership qualities and what a good defender he is."