Terry’s Champions League final ban is the perfect punishment
Spare us the stage-managed sympathy for John Terry, the blind loyalty which makes decent men defend the indefensible. As punishments go, missing the chance to captain Chelsea in another Champions League final is biblical in its intensity, exquisite in its cruelty, and absolutely perfect.
Each eulogy about his leadership qualities, every lazy character reference, demeans Chelsea’s other fallen heroes. Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and Ramires will deserve a compensatory medal for missing Munich. Terry will not.
He’ll be there on 19 May, of course, with that trademark strut, and an air of authority which will compromise Roberto di Matteo, the interim manager who must step from his shadow. Terry is sufficiently streetwise to throw himself into his new role as Chelsea cheerleader, but his professions of humility will be challenged by the nuances of his body language.
He might as well borrow that ‘Why Always Me?’ T-shirt from Mario Balotelli.
His first instinct, on being sent off for the sly, cowardly, empty-headed assault on Alexis Sanchez, was to deny, deny, deny. That’s the litany of a cheat. He later understood the gravity of his error, and apologised, with the proviso that “I’m not that type of player”.
To be fair, there’s some merit in that point. Terry is an old school, give it and take it, defender. He puts his body on the line, and earns the unqualified respect of opposing strikers for his lack of complaint about the double-edged physicality of his trade. But his protest misses the point.
Terry is that type of person.
His expression of genuine shock when he saw the red card at the Camp Nou, was the look of a man accustomed to escaping the consequences of his actions. His cult of personality is so strong that there is more chance of the moon being made of cheese than his Chelsea teammates condemning him.
Yet, to everyone outside the Stamford Bridge bubble, he has forfeited the sergeant major’s right to demand discipline. The tribalism of English football makes him an easy target, but his unpopularity is complete. He has morphed into a figure to be pitied, feared, and speared.
Controversy stalks him. His trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, a charge Terry vociferously denies, begins on 9 July. The pair will be expected to shake hands on Sunday, when QPR visit Chelsea. The script for another pantomime, which blurs the line between victim and villain, is written.
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