For a start, Rio may have lost a step of pace but he is still and always will be an infinitely better defender than John Terry.
What a wonderful world sport is.
Just as news that the once mighty Liverpool FC had parted company with their iconic talisman Kenny Dalglish, his often beleaguered predecessor in the job, Roy Hodgson, was announcing his first England line up. How life can play tricks on one. King Kenny dethroned in a wickedly unceremonious way at what is rapidly becoming a footballing disaster. I know it shows my naivety but is there no loyalty left in football. Having reached the FA Cup Final and won the Carling Cup, King Kenny was eased out the door because of “poor league” form.
Granted, as a Liverpool supporter, we expect to finish higher. But eight in this Premier League isn’t all that bad. Chelsea, the sixth place team is in the final of the Champions League. And, we were playing the best football we’ve produced in more than two decades. I suppose the adage, winning isn’t just everything, it’s the only thing-rings true in King Kenny’s case. Especially in the face of owners who clearly know little about the game. He deserved more time and better treatment.
King Kenny’s more human frailties showed through earlier in the season, when his stout and overtly defensive posturing on behalf of our racist talisman Luis Suarez was, in short, ridiculous. His subsequent climb down and apology lacked sincerity. As a lifelong fan of the greatest club in England I was ashamed then and I am ashamed now. Not because we made mistakes. To err is human. But because of the way we handled them. Shame on the club and its management and that includes, King Kenny.
Liverpool always stood for more than just winning. Winning with ethics, professionalism and style. The club that majestically broke the glass ceiling for black football stars with the purchase of John Barnes from Watford in June 1987 is in crisis. Wow, that hurts. I’ve been in denial for so long, it hurts to accept the obvious.
A crisis not so much in the footballing sense. King Kenny had a handle on that. A crisis of conscience.
I mean, forcing King Kenny out the door after a relatively brief and successful spell in charge again is akin to dethroning the Queen. Other’s may want to sit on the hot seat but they will forever be haunted by the spectre of what we used to stand for and what we have become. Just another club looking to cash in on gullible fans like me. Who, however embarrassed, can’t help but love our team. The crisis of conscience that men like King Kenny now find themselves engulfed in is all part of a modern game where billionaires and business moguls switch allegiance like chips on a roulette table.
The crisis spreads so deep that even honourable men like King Kenny and his affable if unexciting predecessor Roy Hodgson appear unable or unwilling to stand up for what is right and not just what is expedient. While King Kenny has found himself caught up in a world he is powerless to control, the new England manager has disappointed illustrating just how little conscience the game now has for moral imperatives. In his first squad, Mr. Hodgson has chosen to leave out the country’s best central defender in Rio Ferdinand, due to “footballing reasons”. Instead, he has chosen to stick with John Terry, who will soon go on trial for racially abusing Rio’s younger brother Anton Ferdinand.
Do these folk have no conscience. Obviously not. For a start, Rio may have lost a step of pace but he is still and always will be an infinitely better defender than John Terry. The same Terry, who was recently terrorised by Andy Carroll and the very same Liverpool team that Dalglish no longer manages. The same Terry who won’t be available for the Champions League final because he was stupidly sent off during the Barcelona semi-final. And, the same Terry who was stripped by the FA because of his pending racism court case.
The perception of such pragmatism in the face of logic and conscience leaves me wondering what one has to do in football circles to lose out on principle. Maybe sleep with a team mates wife....oops no, that’s all in the game these days isn’t it. The simple truth is that race, questions of colour and conscience take second, third or possibly fourth place even to winning.
The beautiful game doesn’t look half so rosy as it used to from Anfield or Wembley anymore. Win or lose, I think I’ll probably take more interest during the Euro’s this summer to see how many times a commentator mentions that Terry is due in court on charges of racially abusing the brother of “former England captain” Rio Ferdinand.
Liverpool at least has not been immune to the criticism. The club has in fact, secretly hired Amaechi Performance Systems to consult and work with the local community on matters of tolerance. For those that don’t know, the company is the brain child of John Amaechi.
Yes, that John Amaechi. The behavioural psychologist, social entrepreneur and best-selling author. More importantly, he is a director for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) Diversity Board that sets strategy for procurement, recruitment and standards for every employee, supplier and volunteer for the 2012 Olympic games effort. Bet you didn’t think I was going say that did you.
Mr. Amaechi is a truly unique person, who I was honoured to meet recently at a Football Against Racism in Europe gathering in Rome. The hugely important “Game Changers” conference bought together 150 people from 40 countries that form part of the FARE network to discuss issues of race, diversity and equality. Mr. Amaechi was a keynote speaker who has worked for Fortune 500 corporations and amassed a stinging reputation as a change agent not afraid to speak his mind.
His sharp focus and clearly held belief that sports too often abdicates its responsibility to be a positive change agent could not be missed. An impressive orator, with an unusually forceful intellect, he was - in keeping with the role of a consultant - tight lipped about his Anfield posting when pressed. Of course, Mr. Amaechi is no stranger to sports and controversy. And , perhaps knows better than most what it is to bring about a change in perceptions and conscience, especially in the field of sport.
The 6’ 9” social scientist in February 2007, after his retirement from a successful career in top level US basketball, became the first former NBA player to come out publicly in his memoir, Man in the Middle. Regarded as one of the world's most high-profile gay athletes, he decries sports administrators for an inability to adapt and change their thinking.
Let’s hope Liverpool take full advantage of his undoubted skills and don’t just continue to talk the talk. Amaechi himself has an enviable track record of actually walking the walk. A fact aptly illustrated by his own holistic basketball programme in Manchester, where he kicked in quarter of a million pounds of his own cash to help build the centre his kids now practice and play in.