“Then put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb. Babe. I got you babe.” The unmistakable melody of “I Got You Babe”, a track which became the background music to the 1993 Hollywood blockbuster “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray.
Visitors to my blog will start to feel like they are living out the nightmare of Phil from the movie, an unmistakable feeling of déjà vu that somehow we have been down this road before. And we most certainly have. As a matter of fact in the 22 months since I started this blog, the subject of race has cropped up no fewer than six times, which equates to just shy of a quarter of my posts.
This month alone I could have written about the ridiculous arguments which followed the decisions of Rio Ferdinand, Jason Roberts and several other players to refuse to wear “Kick It Out” T-Shirts as part of the “week of action”. Indeed in some ways this is an extension of that debate.
As I have addressed previously, I am passionate about the subject of racism in football. I love the sport but sadly I have been exposed to the unpleasant side of the beautiful game. Granted, it was an experience at a young age, but one that nonetheless was to have a profound impact on my views in later life.
So I understand that some will struggle to comprehend my views today regarding the recent events involving controversial referee Mark Clattenburg and Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel and Juan Mata. I am of the opinion that the story has been conceived in the Chelsea dressing room and is nothing more than a hideous attempt to amplify the sense of retribution against a referee who admittedly had a bad game.
Ok that is wrong. He didn’t have a bad game, he had an awful one.
The idea of referees favouring Manchester United is not a revolutionary theory. It is one borne out of years of controversial “rubs of the green” which have been in favour of the club. As an Arsenal fan we have not forgiven nor forgotten the highly contentious decisions which coincided with our visit to Old Trafford eight years ago this month. A match which ended our record breaking forty-nine match unbeaten run. The very name of Mike Riley is enough to turn even the most mild mannered of Arsenal fans into a mood of rage bordering on psychopathic tendencies. Yes I do include myself in that assessment.
Riley made some dreadful decisions that day, many of which undermined the very integrity of referees as a whole. In more recent times this has been replicated by referees such as Howard Webb and indeed Clattenburg. Yet even in my wildest anger, I would never have suggested that the source of such decisions were ever based on racism. It was unashamed favouritism without a shadow of a doubt, though never racism.
Last weekend Chelsea Football Club made two very serious allegations about the conduct of Mark Clattenburg. They centre around the idea that he racially abused Mikel and used inappropriate language against Mata. If this allegation had been made by the vast majority of other clubs, I would probably take it a little more seriously.
That it is being pursued by Chelsea makes the matter for me a lot easier to judge. This is the club that allowed its player, Ashley Cole, to enter a court of law and lie under oath in order to ensure that its captain, John Terry, was acquitted of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand. This is the club that refused to sack Terry as captain, despite being found guilty by the Football Association of the same offence.
That’s right Chelsea. The same Chelsea who sacked two players in the last decade over drugs and attempted to take the moral high ground by stating that they were a family club. That’s right; this was all about morality and not a convenient opportunity to offload two out of favour players minus a lucrative pay off to terminate their contract. Interesting then that their moral compass was nowhere to be seen when they failed to sack Terry, or Cole for that matter.
Of course it is possible that the allegations regarding Mikel and Mata are true, and that Clattenburg did indeed take the scourge of racism in football to another dimension. In the months and years to follow this will look like a very ill-judged piece. But I will argue that for someone like myself to draw such conclusions shows how far the reputation of Chelsea has been dragged through the gutter recently. To the extent that the club has lodged a very serious complaint and I along with others have dismissed the idea out of hand as being a conspiracy dreamt up amidst the bitterness of a first defeat of the season.