The John Terry trial shows that you can bandy the C-word about all day, but it's only when it gets racial that abusive language becomes really serious
The most shocking revelation in the John Terry trial so far is what is regarded as acceptable abuse, sarcasm and banter on the Premier League football pitch. "Cunt"? Perfectly fine. "Fucking knobhead." Nowt wrong with that. It's only when one starts ascribing racial epithets to terms of abuse that we get into murky water.
There are so many of these being bandied around in the Terry trial that it is hard to follow who cunted who. It makes the DH Lawrence trial seem positively last century – which, of course, it was. Lady Chatterley's Lover scored a derisory 30 fucks, 14 cunts, 13 balls, a combined six shits and arses, four cocks, and three pisses – and that was over 360-odd pages.
Even worse than the on-pitch language is the vicious gesturing – also regarded as perfectly acceptable. This includes the fist pump – which we now know is shorthand for "you had sexual intercourse with an inappropriate partner, betraying both a good friend and your wife in the process", and, scariest of all, the gesture Terry made to Anton Ferdinand suggesting he had bad breath.
At least cricket "sledging" is a bit more inventive than endless repetition of the C-word. "You got an MBE, right? For scoring seven at the Oval? That's embarrassing," Australian bowler Shane Warne riled England batsman Paul Collingwood in the final test of the 2007/8 Ashes.
Australian wicket keeper Rodney Marsh asked Ian Botham in an Ashes match: "So how's your wife and my kids?" Botham replied: "The wife's fine. The kids are retarded!" At least there's an attempt at wit.
I have played football for too many years, and, yes, there have been occasions when players have resorted to abuse. But nothing quite on the Terry-Ferdinand scale. On one occasion, a colleague flaunted a black Michael Jackson-style glove at the opposition – we knew it was an insult, but never quite worked out why. Last year, a match was nearly called off after a vicious flare-up almost resulted in physical violence. One relatively youthful player told an established player who had fouled him: "I wouldn't mind, but you can't even tackle well." Appalling.
The same player suggested I was greedy and not playing well, to which I responded with quivering voice and tears: "Stop picking on me … You know it makes me play worse." And that was the end of that. No court case, no nothing. Perhaps Premier League footballers could take a leaf out of Muswell Hill PSV's Two-Headed Pigs squad, and leave their potty mouths in the changing room. Read More
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