Ferdinand shakes up the Respect campaign
Moral outrage followed when Anton Ferdinand declined to shake hands with John Terry and Ashley Cole during the clash this weekend between QPR and Chelsea. Apparently it was “unedifying”, “disgraceful”, “shameful”. It was evidence, if more was needed, of the failure of the football authorities to instil FIFA’s Respect campaign into its players.
Only that’s not the way I see it. For me, Ferdinand’s public snub should be seen as the embodiment of the Respect campaign.
Presently, the Respect campaign is nothing more than empty gestures: players compelled to shake hands before games; a flag traipsed around the pitch; a badge on the referee’s shirt. None of it, unsurprisingly, actually means anything. It’s all just a hollow pantomime and empty pageantry.
Ferdinand’s gesture though, far from sabotaging the campaign, is about the only meaningful act we’ve ever seen under its auspices. It was a statement that clearly said: I do not respect these men.
While the court cleared John Terry of racist abuse, clearly Ferdinand has a different view of what transpired on the pitch. One which it’s hard to argue he’s not entitled to hold.
The trouble is, respect isn’t something that can be simply legislated for by the FA, like tucking shirts into shorts or this season’s bizarre dictat on the colour of tape players can use on their socks. Equally, it’s not something you can ask players to ladle out to everyone like they’re working behind counter at a soup kitchen.
If you want players to show respect, then they need to be able to withdraw that respect as well. Far from signalling the end of FIFA’s campaign, it should be seen as its greatest triumph.
Written by James Albion.