Soccer: How can I be a racist? I've done work with African charities

By Paul Harris

Only rarely is it possible for spectators to watch John Terry in action for more than 90 minutes without having to go through a turnstile.

Rarer still is to see the former England captain virtually motionless, speaking almost in a whisper at times, and standing with his hands clasped in front of him as if in silent prayer.

But anyone at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court overnight got a glimpse of the other John Terry. Not the Chelsea defender aggressively tackling his opponents on the pitch.

This was Terry at his most humble, giving evidence for the first time in defence of a charge that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand in a four-letter tirade during a game against QPR last October.

Terry, who denies the claim, arrived at court on Monday (UKT) looking as if he had just left a wedding in his expensive grey suit and pink tie. Overnight the outfit was bordering on funereal - a midnight blue suit, black tie and highly polished black shoes.

To begin with, Mr Terry, as prosecuting lawyer Duncan Penny addressed him, was asked to place the various insults, banter and confrontations commonplace in top class football into rank order.

"Handbags", the 31-year-old Chelsea skipper agreed, was how commentators tended to define clashes that didn't result in fists, headbutts and outright violence.

Then there were the insults. "You're ugly," was probably at the lower end of the scale and was commonplace, Terry agreed.

Ditto "You're fat".

Comments about players' wives and girlfriends? "I've had that," Terry said.

Mr Penny: "A player might say, 'I had your wife... I s****** your girlfriend, that sort of thing?'" Terry: "Yes."

But there were no-go areas. "How about, 'Your mum's a s***'? Have you heard that said to other players?" Mr Penny asked. Terry: "No, only to myself."

What about insults concerning what Mr Penny called his "domestic circumstances" - Terry is alleged to have reacted after Ferdinand accused him of "s******* Bridge's missus", a reference to his relationship with model Vanessa Perroncel, who had been dating his former colleague Wayne Bridge. Was that a no-go area? "Apparently not," said Terry, adding that fans had long heckled him over it.

Mr Penny: "So when someone enters a no-go area, you strike back?" Terry: "No, I don't strike back." Mr Penny: "You're the innocent victim are you?" Terry: "Yes." Mr Penny: "Too right. You've been stitched up right and proper haven't you?" Terry: "Yeah."

Under further questioning, Terry denied he had "snapped" when Ferdinand abused him, or that his 'blood was up'.

Terry told Mr Penny he had never been accused on a football pitch of making racist remarks. "At the time I was shocked and angry," he said. "Hindsight's a wonderful thing. At the time I was shocked, I was angry, you can't control your emotions."

The court heard that Terry had told detectives that using racist terms was "completely unacceptable". He had also told police of his work with the African charities of two black former Chelsea colleagues, Marcel Desailly and striker Didier Drogba, adding: "My commitment to these projects further demonstrates that I am not a racist."

At one stage in confrontation with Ferdinand, he admitted, he had waved his hand in front of his nose to gesture that his opponent had "bad breath" - but he had not intended to humiliate him.

Why not just tell him to calm down? "You wouldn't see many footballers when they square up saying 'Calm down'," Terry replied.

Why did he gesture in the same game that QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was fat? Was that "handbags"too?

"Yes," said Terry, adding that his rivals sometimes called him fat.

Mr Penny: "You're not fat though are you? You're a supreme athlete." Terry: "I used to be..."

Had he thought about apologising to Anton Ferdinand? "Why would I apologise to Anton?" he replied. "He's the one who accused me."

Terry told the court that it had actually been Ferdinand who had first used racist terms during the flare-up. As the pair traded insults, he claims to have heard Ferdinand say: "Calling me a black c***?" He said: "I thought he was accusing me of calling him a black c***. I was very angry and I was upset. I replied, 'A black c***? You f****** k***head'."

This second day of the hearing was played out to a packed court.

Outside, passing van drivers displaying Chelsea colours tooted support on their horns; inside, the legal files, coincidentally, were coloured blue and white.

Terry was in the witness box for a total of two hours, which, even on his wages of £160,000 a week, almost certainly worked out less in hourly rates than the collective fees of the lawyers involved in the case.

Earlier Terry told the court he shook Ferdinand's hand in the dressing room after asking to see him after the match.

"We've got a little bit of superstition at Chelsea," he said. "Me, Ash [Ashley Cole], Frank Lampard and [Daniel] Sturridge all get changed together - until we lose, then we change sequence.

"By this stage I'm already changed. I'm in the toilet doing my hair. As I come out, me and Anton passed."

Terry said he asked the QPR defender if he was suggesting he had been racially abused.

Ferdinand's response? "No, no, no. We all say things we shouldn't. That's the end of it."

This case is listed to run until the end of the week. If you don't want to know the result, look away then.

- DAILY MAIL

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