Rio Ferdinand may feel the authorities are far too weak in the campaign to kick racism out of football. There are certainly many who believe John Terry got off lightly after admitting he used racist language in the confrontation with his brother Anton. And there are still rumblings of discontent over the way the Luiz Suarez-Patrice Evra saga was handled. But Rio has made a huge error of judgment by embarrassing his manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Any point the former Manchester United captain was trying to make about racism in football by refusing to wear the Kick It Out T-shirt before this afternoon’s 4-2 win over Stoke City will be overshadowed by the media frenzy ignited by Ferdinand’s defiance of the Boss.
In a society where the media magnify any confrontation, it was stupidity beyond belief for Ferdinand to ignore the clear instructions of Sir Alex.
Every player in the Premier League was issued with a Kick It Out T-shirt and asked to wear it during this weekend’s pre-match warm-ups to show support for the campaign to drive racism from the sport.
Sir Alex had already made his views crystal clear 24 hours earlier by criticising Roberts for suggesting he would boycott the campaign by not wearing the T-shirt. For Ferdinand to publicly embarrass his boss by doing just that was pure lunacy.
Roberts has been a vocal critic of football’s most prominent anti-racism body, insisting not enough has been done to tackle the problem in the wake of the Suarez-Evra and Terry-Ferdinand affairs. But what measures he and Ferdinand believe Kick It Out should have taken are unclear.
When you compare the great progress made in this country in tackling racism compared with the pathetic weakness of both FIFA and UEFA, it is hard to understand why Ferdinand so blatantly ignored his manager’s strong statement on the matter. It would make more sense if Roberts and Ferdinand were urging tougher action on racism from UEFA and FIFA.
Unless UEFA finally get serious and hand out a severe punishment to Serbia after England defender Danny Rose was allegedly subjected to racist chants and hit with stones during the Euro 2013 play-off match in Krusevac, it will remain easy to criticise Europe’s administration. While FIFA have failed to provide strong leadership on the issue of racism in football.
In contrast, the English FA have consistently been the strongest voice on the world stage in addressing the ongoing problems of racism and there is a zero tolerance of racial abuse in both the Premier League and the Football League. To their eternal credit the FA had the courage to charge Terry after he had been cleared of racial abuse by a court of law.
The Kick It Out campaign is funded by the Professional Footballers Association, the Premier League and the Football Association.
Confirming all his players, including Ferdinand, would wear the campaigning body’s anti-racism T-shirts to mark their annual week of action, the Manchester United manager gave his endorsement when he said: “I have to disagree with Jason Roberts, he is making the wrong point. Everyone should be united, all the players in the country wearing the top, the warm-up tops. I do not know what point he is trying to make or trying to put himself on a different pedestal to everyone else. He really should be supporting all the rest of the players who are doing something. If you are doing something then everyone who believes in it should do it together, we should not have sheep walking off. He is making the wrong message.
“Yes, all my players will wear it. I think all the players will be wearing it. I only heard that Jason Roberts is different. He is very different, he plays his game and is in the studio 20 minutes after it, it’s a great privilege.”
Sadly, Ferdinand has chosen to take a stand that has more chance of damaging his relationship with his manager than it has of kicking racism out of football.