Anton Ferdinand on football, racism and me

Monday; Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism And Me; (BBC One, 9pm)
Anton reveals how his life was affected after the ‘Ferdinand v Terry’ caseAnton reveals how his life was affected after the ‘Ferdinand v Terry’ case
Anton reveals how his life was affected after the ‘Ferdinand v Terry’ case

It was one of the most disturbing episodes in English football history.

In October 2011, a complaint was made against John Terry for calling Anton Ferdinand a “f****** black c***” during a televised game at Loftus Road between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea.

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This led to a criminal charge of using racist language being brought against the then England captain Terry.

Battle lines were drawn in court between those supporting the Chelsea defender, including his team mate Ashley Cole who gave evidence on his behalf, and those supporting Anton, including his brother (and Terry’s England team mate), Rio.

Although Terry was eventually acquitted in criminal court, an FA commission, working to a lower burden of proof than a criminal court, found him guilty three months later. He was banned for four matches and fined £220,000.

Nevertheless, Terry and Chelsea still faced media condemnation – the player for not directly and personally apologising to Anton, and the club for only fining Terry and not stripping him of his captaincy when they have a “zero-tolerance” approach to racism.

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In some respects, the individual who paid the highest price in the episode was Anton. He would play little more than a year more in the Premier League after that infamous spat.

In fact, after the FA independent commission found Terry guilty in September the following year, Anton would play just nine more Premier League games.

Four months later, in January 2013, aged just 27, he would depart for a spell in Turkey, before signing to play professionally in Thailand, and eventually returning to Britain where his career wound down at Reading, Southend United and finally St Mirren.

Ever since the incident, Anton, now 35 and retired from the game, has been subjected to online abuse, which not only affected his own mental health and career but also the lives of his loved ones.

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In this deeply personal documentary he reveals what is was like to be unwittingly at the centre of a football power struggle, and how it felt to be told by a court that he had not been racially abused live on television, and then by the FA that he had? As well as reliving the remarkable trial, Anton also attempts to address wider questions of race in the game.

He examines the Black Lives Matter movement in football, investigates the rise in reported incidents of racial abuse, meets players are still being failed by the system, and explains how the sport urgently needs to change.

Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism And Me is one of a series of programmes the BBC is working on surrounding racial abuse in soccer.

Last month, BBC Three’s Shame In The Game shone a light on the issue in English football, from a grassroots level right up to the Premier League.

And Anton thinks it’s about time the issue was addressed.

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“Racism is still a prominent issue in football and during the filming process alone, there have been numerous incidents on and off the pitch,” he says.

“I hope by sharing my own personal experiences of racism I can help people understand this subject better.

“It’s of huge importance and should matter to us all.”

The aftershock of the ‘Ferdinand v Terry’ case rippled through the English game for years and there is still bad feeling lingering in the air among that generation of players. On one side of the divide, there’s Rio and Anton, and on the other Terry and Cole.

Rio and Ashley are both now television pundits, albeit for different broadcasters, and one could not imagine them in the same studio unless something fundamental was resolved between the pair.

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Terry is now working on his coaching career under Dean Smith at Aston Villa. However, the forgotten person of the whole sorry affair was Anton. His life was affected more than any other – and he will at last have his say.

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