Racism has never fully disappeared from football, but became limited to a few idiots.
English FA was right to ban John Terry
I've not been comfortable watching the race stories involving Luis Suarez and Chelsea in the past year, and the reactions they have prompted from fans and people in football blinded by loyalty to their team. The Terry case has dragged on for so long, and it has put a big cloud over race relations in English football.
I played over 500 professional games in England and didn't hear one racist comment aimed directly at me. Other players did and dealt with the issue one on one.
Had I done, I'm not the type of person to turn a blind eye. I would have fought it directly if anyone had used the words of Suarez, or especially Terry, on the field.
It is not acceptable. If I was Anton Ferdinand I would not shake Terry's hand until he apologised, yet I saw a leading football figure last week say that "we have to move on" because "these things separate us and become like some mafia feud".
That is clueless and offensive: the words of a white man stuck in a bygone age who wants to brush a problem under the carpet.
It is as if a player who suffers from racist abuse at the hands of someone like Terry should just forget about it and shake his hand the next time they meet.
Black players before me in the 1970s, such as Cyrille Regis, suffered constant, terrible racism on and off the pitch. When I was a kid growing up in Nottingham, a trip for a black kid to watch the city's clubs Forest or County was out of bounds because of the racism on the terraces.
Thankfully, I would now have no hesitation taking my family to any English football ground today as the atmosphere is much better.
Players like Regis helped. He suffered, but he cleared the path and changed attitudes so that footballers like me could have trouble-free careers. Racism has never fully disappeared from football, but became limited to a few idiots.
It still is.
Terry was an idiot for what he said to Ferdinand. I don't consider him a racist, but what he said was definitely racist.
He was found innocent in court and guilty by the Football Association, with a four-week ban and a fine which roughly amounts to a week's wages. It is a light ban considering Suarez got eight games, but I think justice has been done because there were a lot of black footballers disappointed when Terry was not found guilty in court.
Had Terry not been found guilty by the Football Association, a lot of black players would have thought it a cover-up by the white men in charge. But they did their job and found him guilty. That hopefully sends a message to any other players looking at making a racist comment on the field.
The damage for Terry is far more than the ban, though. He is a great player and I've played against him to know how good he is, but his reputation is shot in the eyes of many, especially black footballers. I know; I speak to them every day.
Even those who don't consider him a racist will now always have a doubt in their minds but, then, he had already made a rod for his own back by his previous off-field behaviour and antics.
Terry has abused his privileges as Chelsea and England captain on more than one occasion.
Terry's once-decent relationship with Rio Ferdinand has gone, too, and while he has many friends in the game, including black players who stick up for him, such as Marcel Desailly and Ashley Cole, there are others who now won't. The whole affair is unsavoury, and it highlighted that there are still pockets of racism.
I get occasional racist abuse from cranks on Twitter. There is always the same reaction when you challenge it, because they then realise they are a phone call away from having a criminal record for racism.
They either claim that their account has been hacked or come back with the old classic: "I'm not racist; I have black friends."
These people pay no attention to any "Kick Racism Out of Football" or "Show Racism The Red Card" campaigns. They pay attention only when they think they might acquire a criminal record for racist abuse and their racism will be brought to public attention.
Football needs to move on from this, to bigger and better things. Great steps have been made and hopefully there will be no more incidents of racism which stain the game that so many love.
But, sadly, it takes only one idiot to think differently.
Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
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