Time to patch up

Roberto Mancini did not dwell on details after Manchester City's defeat agaist Ajax in the Champions League.-AP

The Ferdinands opened up the path to reconciliation with a commendable joint statement, which balanced their disappointment at the punishment meted out to Terry with a willingness to seek unity in the battle against racism. By Frank Malley.

It is time for the handshake. It is time for Rio Ferdinand to embrace his former England team-mate John Terry sometime, some place. It will end a year of angst and recrimination which threatened to set football’s fight against racism back a quarter of a century.

It is time to forgive and allow football to move forward from the events at Loftus Road 12 months ago, which saw Terry acquitted in a court of law but banned for four matches and fined £220,000 by the Football Association for using racist language against Rio’s brother Anton.

The Ferdinands opened up the path to reconciliation with a commendable joint statement, which balanced their disappointment at the punishment meted out to Terry with a willingness to seek unity in the battle against racism.

It read: “Although we have been left disappointed by the PFA and the FA’s actions over the last year, as a family, we are committed to working with football’s existing organisations towards the betterment of the game and to achieve immediate action.”

Such organisations include ‘Kick It Out’, whose shirt the Ferdinands refused to wear recently but who they now recognise have done a “fantastic” job in countering racism in the past.

“Times change and organisations need to change with them. We are more than happy to join the discussion, privately, to make Kick it Out more relevant in its fight to stamp out racism in football,” the statement added.

What it did not add was the responsibility football’s most powerful men must accept if racism is to be eradicated.

Funny, isn’t it, that the Professional Football Association came up with their six-point action plan to combat racism only when threatened with a boycott by black players which would have slashed their membership and curbed their power. Funny, too, that the FA have pledged to review their punishments for racism only after meting out a penalty to Terry which was almost universally criticised for its lack of severity.

The stand against racism takes brave and resolute men.

Not the sort such as the Serbian officials, who attempted to shift the blame on to Sunderland’s Danny Rose after he had been relentlessly abused in Krusevac during an England Under-21 match recently.

Not the sort of UEFA officials, either, who have meted out paltry fines in the past for the most reprehensible of fans’ behaviour.

Not the sort, if the truth be told, who deemed Terry to be a fit and proper captain of Chelsea Football Club after having been found guilty of using racist language against Anton Ferdinand.

Quite how Chelsea can insist, as they do, that they are committed to “eradicating all forms of discriminatory behaviour” while keeping Terry as their figurehead is one of football’s most stark and depressing contradictions.

Listening to Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo trying to defend the indefensible as he admitted reluctantly that Terry had “put a little bit of a cloud over the image of the club”, while refusing to reveal the detailed extent of the club’s punishment, was simply not good enough.

In such circumstances it is asking a lot of Ferdinand, Rio that is, to forgive. Apart from being Anton’s brother, he had nothing to do with the initial incident at Loftus Road 12 months ago and yet suffered as much as anyone if we believe, and many do, that he was left out of the England squad for Euro 2012 because a unified and convivial dressing room could not accommodate both himself and Terry.

It is time to shake hands and move on. * * *

Roberto Mancini blamed his pre-match preparation for Manchester City’s 3-1 UEFA Champions League loss against Ajax.

Could the City boss have been referring to the fact that he and his players were pictured strolling through the cafes of Amsterdam like carefree tourists the day before the match?

Or might he have been alluding to his experiment with City’s formation, which saw them interchange between a three and five-man defence?

Mancini did not dwell on details after a defeat which left City on the cusp of elimination from the Champions League at the group stage for the second year in a row.

It was left to the brave, or foolish, Micah Richards to do that.

“It’s not something that we’ve worked on a lot, we’re just used to a back four,” said Richards.

“It’s a hard system and I think the players prefer a 4-4-2 but he’s the manager and we’ll do what he says.”

Not just Mancini blaming Mancini then.

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