To misquote Churchill, “The Battle of Terry is
over. I expect that the Battle of
Clattenburg is about to begin”.
In the original, Churchill was of course referring to
those defining events of 1940, the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. My updated version introduces the rather
trite battles that have preoccupied Chelsea Football Club in 2012.
wouldn’t know it from the news coverage.
Here’s the sequence of events leading to the outbreak of hostilities.
A couple of weeks back, John Terry, who turns out for
Chelsea (and until recently England) was fined by his club for uttering a
racial epithet in an on-field spat with an opponent of mixed race named
Ferdinand (this after Terry had been found not guilty in a court of law, where
the burden of proof is higher, and the costs higher still).
Now, in Chelsea’s
latest language scandal, Mark Clattenburg, the referee of the match last
weekend against Manchester United (which Chelsea
lost 3-2 on a disputed late goal) is alleged to have insulted two Chelsea players with
racial taunts. It is claimed by at least
two team-mates, who say they overheard the remarks, that Mikel John Obi, who is
Nigerian, was called a ‘monkey’ and Juan Mata, a Spaniard, a ‘Spanish t**t’.
(The asterisked word that appeared in the papers could
conceivably have been ‘twit’ rather than ‘twat’, but that’s neither here nor
there, because it’s the insertion of ‘Spanish’ that is the problem, not the
That reminds me, incidentally, of an anecdote from the
Second Word War. General Eisenhower once
fired an American officer at his headquarters for calling a British colleague a
rude name. Ike, forever concerned about
keeping Anglo-American relations harmonious, told the officer – and I paraphrase
– “If you’d called him a sonofabitch you’d have got away with it, but you
called him a ‘British sonofabitch’, so you’re fired.”
Since the Chelsea
incident, Clattenburg’s house has been besieged by reporters, sometimes well
into the night, and he has received the usual welter of threatening tweets from
angry Chelsea fans – or if you prefer, deranged,
mentally defective Chelsea
fans. The club is holding an enquiry, to
decide whether to file a formal complaint to the Football Association. The FA, not wishing to be seen a complacent
in matters of race relations, is preparing to launch enquiry of its own. The police have been called in to investigate
complaints of abusive language.
Meanwhile, the British press, deploying the sense of
proportion for which it is justly renowned, has spun millions of words on the
subject. No doubt newspapers in Nigeria and Spain have been equally assiduous
in their coverage.
Pretty soon, FIFA and the United Nations may well be
drawn into the affair. Cameron could
face a grilling at Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.
In short, no turn will be left unstoned in getting to
hurricane? Sandy, eh?
When’s it supposed to arrive? Oh,
it’s already hit New York.
election? Who’s running? Oh, in America. Yeah, I did read something about that.
Now, those of you mesmerised by the Clattenburg Affair
– and I’d guess there are more than a few of you – should keep an eye on this
space for further developments.
I promise I’ll keep you posted.