Thursday, 7 June 2012

An open letter to Sol Campbell

So Sol, when’s the autobiography out?

I assume that’s why you’re in the headlines on a regular basis all of a sudden, giving us your 'expert' analysis on various topics (well, racism anyway) or are you just looking for a media career?  (If it’s the latter, I can understand where you’re coming from; after all if Robbie Savage can do it, surely anyone can…)

You handled the announcement of your retirement superbly.  I mean kudos to you for extracting maximum exposure out of something most people thought had already happened.  Given your last competitive game was for Newcastle in March 2011, ‘retiring’ 14 months later could have made you look a little silly (a tiny bit like resigning after you’d been sacked and escorted from the building by security) but, no, you handled it with aplomb and notched up the first batch of headlines.

I quit.
Then just over three weeks later we got that Panorama programme.  Your comments warning England fans not to travel to the Ukraine because they “could end up coming back in a coffin” were, like the programme, a touch on the sensationalist side.

It’s possible I suppose, but then any trip anywhere has risks – just ask the families of the three British holidaymakers who have fallen to their deaths from hotel balconies in Magaluf since the beginning of April alone.  On balance Ukraine’s arguably a safer destination. There were no incidents of racism or, crucially, killings when England last played in the country in 2009, nor during visits there by English clubs including Everton, Manchester City and your old boys Spurs and Arsenal.  Still who cares?  You gave the BBC’s reporters exactly what they wanted and generated headlines for you and them.  You’ll go far in this media lark.

Let’s be honest about this, Sol, if Uefa or Fifa ever award England a major tournament (unlikely I know) a foreign broadcaster could film an EDL march undercover, take the footage out of context and portray that kind of behaviour as widespread.  Add in a dire warning from a celebrity or ex-footballer and they’d generate a whole bunch of scaremongering headlines and quickly have people believing England is a viscous hotbed of racism.

Now we’ve got your Guardian piece on the Rio Ferdinand “affair”.  Nothing like jumping on a bandwagon to up your exposure is there?  The thrust of your argument seems to be that (a) Rio must have been omitted because of the accusations that John Terry racially abused his brother and thus the FA is implicitly condoning racism and (b) the FA never know how to treat players with respect.  As with the Panorama documentary, what you say is low on fact and high on emotive language.

Let’s deal with (b) first.  You say you “have experienced first-hand the FA's inability to treat players properly” basically because you were left out of the 2010 World Cup squad.  I accept that squad was a bit left-field not least Fabio Capello picking Jamie Carragher and Ledley King, but that doesn’t mean that not picking you was wrong.  Furthermore, given Capello had never picked you and that your last game for England was in November 2007, why does it surprise you that the Italian “didn’t even bother to come and see” you?

It’s also worth pointing out that when you left Portsmouth in July 2009 (a year before the World Cup) you decided to join Notts County in League Two – the lowest tier of the Football League - which, intentionally or otherwise, sent out a pretty clear message.  Maybe Capello didn’t come and see you because with that move down the leagues, you had effectively excluded yourself from international selection.  When it all went the way of the pear at Meadow Lane you were lucky to get another gig with Arsenal and, yes, you put in some good performances but your claim that you were “playing as well as any defender in the country” is an interesting one.

The real issue is, of course, (a); your belief that Ferdinand has been overlooked because of the allegations against Terry. You claim that you “never bought the argument that Rio had been left out of the original squad for ‘footballing reasons’” yet you provide no “footballing reasons” why he should be included, you article is simply full of moral indignation.  If the roles were reversed and Terry had been left out and then ‘over looked’ would not be leaping to the defence of a man yet to be found guilty of anything?  To even begin to justify your claims, you have to demonstrate that Ferdinand is worthy of a place in England’s squad.  I’m not saying he isn’t but you haven’t shown that he is.

You then argue “this entire situation goes back to what did or did not happen between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand last season.  That is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn.”  Is it?  Again, you provide absolutely no basis for this.  What about the claim that Sir Alex Ferguson suggested Ferdinand would not be able to cope with the rigors of three games in eight days?  On that basis surely we could logically conclude Roy Hodgson has overlooked Ferdinand on fitness grounds?  Oh, but that doesn’t fit the current narrative, does it?  Best ignore it as, in fact, you do.

You even ask if there has been “a cover-up” and then leave the emotive question hanging in the air with out outlining what you think might have been covered up or by whom.

You may be right, of course, perhaps there has been a 'cover up' but let me conjure up another scenario:  Hodgson speaks to Ferdinand and Ferdinand says “I can't play in a team with Terry. It's me or him."  Hodgson then makes a cold, hard decision on the basis of which of the pair he thinks is best – for “footballing reasons” - and picks the Chelsea man.  Maybe my version happened or maybe it didn’t but frankly, who cares?  Making stuff up is far easier than actually trying to unearth boring things like facts.

And, while we’re at it, what about Micah Richards?  Arguably he had an even better claim to be in the initial squad than Ferdinand (I bet he feels a bit silly refusing to go on the stand-by list) yet, again, that doesn’t fit the narrative that you’ve been sucked in to support, so you ignore that too.

What might have been
You do at least acknowledge that Hodgson was put in a difficult position.  Maybe if Terry hadn’t asked for the court case to be put back until next month this would have all been done and dusted by now.  However, as things stand today not matter what you (or I) think of John Terry (and believe me I am far from being a fan) any discussion of the situation must acknowledge that he has yet to be found guilty of any race-related crime.  So your claims that Ferdinand’s exclusion may mean that other players will feel “reluctant to speak out against racism in case it harms their chances of being picked by England” is a bold one given a verdict has yet to be delivered.

Your final-paragraph statement is again bold and emotive but relatively fact-free:  “And if it is ever proven true that John Terry was chosen over Rio because of race then I would tell the FA that they can take back my 73 caps and scrub my name out of the record books. I would no longer want to be known as someone who played for England – that would be the end for me.”

Are you suggesting that the decision to leave Ferdinand at home is in itself racist?  If so, that’s another bold claim to make and it certainly does nothing to stop the "saga from dragging on" something you yourself admit is undermining Hodgson.

By the way, what happens if it's ever proven true that Ferdinand was left out for "footballing reasons" or if Terry is found innocent?  Will you take back all the accusations you’ve made or will you have forgotten about them by then?

Any way, good luck with the media career (that’s what this is all about, right?)  Although I don’t think you need luck – you seem to have got the hang of how it works.  Spout controversial bollocks and, whether or not it's based on fact, the papers will lap it up. One tip, mind; start being a bit more proactive on Twitter.  That’s where the action’s really at.

Bla, bla, etc, etc

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The bigger footballing decision was Micah Richards, Sol clearly wanted maximum publicity for himself. Rio was left out because he's 33 and reportedly had a back problem that meant he even had to stand on aeroplanes during flights. Sol is just paranoid and way off the mark with the racism implications.