Rio Ferdinand has criticised Uefa after European football’s governing body banned Nicklas Bendtner for one competitive fixture and fined the striker €100,000 (£80,383) for exposing sponsored underwear in Denmark’s European Championship defeat to Portugal last Wednesday.
Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender, wrote on Twitter: ‘Uefa are you for real??? £80,000 fine for Bendtner for underwear advertising…. all of the racism fines together don’t even add up to that?!
‘Uefa are not serious… Platini was a great player but him & his colleagues alienate themselves with exactly this type of rubbish. If racism made money for Uefa like advertising does do you think Uefa would take it as serious?? #priorities’
[I]nstead of taking the earliest possible opportunity to hear the case concerning an incident dating back to last October, [Westminsters magistrates’ court] agreed to wait until July, leaving Terry free to represent Chelsea in three major club competitions and the European Championship.
It is hard to imagine such an accommodation being made at the behest of a plumber with a diary full of jobs for the next six months or a young actor engaged for a long run in a small but career-building part in the West End. Perhaps by agreeing to a postponement with Terry’s lawyers, the official in question at the magistrates’ court imagined that he or she was somehow serving a national interest. Instead, England now find themselves entering a tournament at which the preliminaries have been overshadowed by allegations of racism in the two countries hosting the championship – largely provoked by an excellent BBC documentary – while giving a place in their squad to a player accused of being a racist. Foreigners may be confused by this.
‘People think I looked at two players when Gary Cahill was injured – Martin Kelly and Rio Ferdinand – and chose Martin Kelly, but there was never any question of that,’ said Hodgson.
‘Rio Ferdinand never came into consideration. I had my squad of 23, I had the players I knew, in Cahill’s absence, would probably be the starters, and I knew who would be the covering players. When it came to bringing another player in, I wasn’t going to bring in a player of Rio Ferdinand’s age, class, background and experience to be a cover player.
Roy Hodgson’s problems as England fly out to Poland for Euro 2012 have intensified after it emerged Kick It Out, English football’s leading anti-racism organisation, is considering putting together a robust response condemning his handling of the Rio Ferdinand affair.
Hodgson’s explanation that he has left out Ferdinand purely on “football grounds” and that it had nothing to with John Terry’s forthcoming court case has dismayed Kick It Out to the point it is holding talks behind the scenes to decide whether to go public with its grievances.
Bernstein, however, would not comment on the specific allegation that Ferdinand had been left out purely because John Terry is to stand trial on 9 July charged with racially abusing Ferdinand’s younger brother, Anton – a charge the Chelsea player denies.
“Let me be absolutely clear, because I’m sure there will be other questions about this,” Bernstein said. “We have spent a long while building up to this tournament. We’re here to do the best we can, we’re here to talk about the tournament, about the 23 players who are here and I’m not prepared to discuss any players who are not here.
“It’s an issue I’m happy to talk about when the tournament is over maybe, but we are here to talk about the tournament and about the future and that’s it. We all want to maximise our chances of doing well and we believe that the focus is on what’s ahead of us – not what is behind us.”
The chairman left the clear impression that the FA’s priority is to protect Kelly’s feelings rather than Ferdinand’s. “I’m sure he is [affected],” Bernstein said of the Liverpool player. “I haven’t spoken to him personally but as far as I understand …”
Asked if that meant questions on Ferdinand were now off limits, Bernstein replied: “As far as I’m concerned, definitely. I’m sure he [Hodgson] can speak for himself, but I imagine you’ll get the same answer from him, too.
At the very least Rio should have been given the opportunity to say “no, I don’t want to be in the same squad as John Terry”. Hodgson should have spoken to him man-to-man, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball and seen where he was at, seen if he felt capable of contributing to the team and being around Terry for the next three weeks. Given everything Rio has done for his country, and how he has been playing for United in recent months, he deserved that at least.
There is no doubt that those who have been chosen for England will be speaking about this issue now. Crucially many of them will now doubt if they can trust the FA and be questioning who is really pulling the strings; the manager or people behind the scenes? Some will not know where they stand. A wider issue is if this episode leads to players in the future feeling reluctant to speak out against racism in case it harms their chances of being picked by England. That would be extremely serious and would have to lead to the government getting involved in some way.
And if it is ever proven true that John Terry was chosen over Rio because of race then I would tell the FA that they can take back my 73 caps and scrub my name out of the record books. I would no longer want to be known as someone who played for England – that would be the end for me.