By Jorge Andres Mondaca
For the past month, the city of London and Great Britain have created heroes for the world masses. Now, they have a villain – although one far removed from the glow of the Olympic Games: Chelsea’s very own John Terry.
The former England captain has faced intense scrutiny since last October when it is claimed that he shouted racial abuse towards QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Terry was criminally charged following the allegations, but has since been cleared by a magistrate in court. The Football Association, England’s governing body for the sport, is continuing to investigate the matter and could still punish him.
The long-running saga adds fuel to the fire that comes from the stands during Chelsea away matches – as was evident during the Community Shield matchup last Sunday against Manchester City; albeit on neutral ground at Villa Park in Birmingham. From the moment he was introduced to the time he was near the ball, rival fans mocked and abused Terry non-stop.
Teammate Peter Cech expressed earlier this week that Terry understands that he will under a microscope all season long but expects the club captain to soldier on.
“He’s a strong lad,” the goalkeeper said about Terry according to published reports. “I don’t think he was surprised and I don’t think it will affect him in any way.”
Terry isn’t alone. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United player Patrice Evra last season and faces similar treatment away from Anfield.
Both players will be called racists and worse every time they play away from their home grounds, creating a toxic atmosphere everywhere they go.
But Premier League players have an experience right in front of their faces that could be the basis for a better example for those on the field, in the stands and watching at home: the London Olympics.
“The way sport was showcased in the Olympics was an example to every athlete in every sport,” said Tom Cleverly, a Manchester United player who was on Team GB’s soccer team this team. “The sportsmanship and the respect everyone had for another, it was just first class.”
And they are not alone.
If the Olympics taught us anything, it’s that competitions can be held without racial abuse amongst competitors or fans. Sure, there were moments of passion exhibited from fans, notably during the indoor volleyball final between Brazil and USA when fans were less than cordial to their rivals, but that was a rarity – not a pattern like what we’ll likely see throughout the 2012-13 Barclays Premier League season.
There has been plenty of discussion about the legacy of the London Olympics, especially since it had a pretty hefty (over $14 billion) price tag. If we can take that experience and put it to use on the pitch and in the stands, it may be well worth it and anything else that comes from the Games would be a bonus.