Evil lurking in the Chelsea family: A mindless minority of fans shame proud club
22:48 GMT, 1 November 2012
Our first image has pilgrims coming in all creeds and colours, many foreign accents among them. They filed past Peter Osgood — ‘Stamford Bridge’s one king . . . a big man for a golden age,’ as the inscription remembers him — and back out clutching blue plastic bags of goodies.
Boys stopped to have their pictures taken in the gaps purposefully left blank so they could superimpose themselves on to the billboard-sized photographs of their Champions League-winning heroes. Perhaps 100 people chatted excitedly at the museum and stadium tour entrance — 54 for a family ticket.
Innocent fun — as well as the ker-ching of cash registers — was to the fore at Chelsea’s home on Fulham Road.
Our second image is of a hollering man, named as Gavin Kirkham, apparently making monkey gestures at Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck on Wednesday evening during Chelsea’s 5-4 win in the Capital One Cup.
Unacceptable: Chelsea 'supporter' Gavin Kirkham appears to make a 'monkey' gesture toward Manchester United's England striker Danny Welbeck
It added another layer to Chelsea’s awkward relationship with the issue of race after the club and fans so readily remained loyal to captain John Terry when he infamously shouted the words ‘black ****’ towards Anton Ferdinand last season.
It also inevitably raised the question of whether Chelsea have acted hypocritically this week in so swiftly alleging that referee Mark Clattenburg called John Mikel Obi a ‘monkey’.
Chelsea have come a long way since they first had a black player, Paul Canoville, 30 years ago. Warming up for his debut as a substitute at Crystal Palace, he was met by the chant from his own fans of: ‘Sit down you black ****. You f****** w**, f*** off.’
When he scored he was met with: ‘Nah, it’s still 0-0. The n*****’s scored, it doesn’t count.’ Bananas were thrown at him.
His Chelsea career ended when he was hit by a drunken team-mate who called him by a racist epithet.
Trailblazer: Paul Canoville (front right) beats Arsenal's Brian Talbot in 1984
That was in the Eighties, at a time when right-wing extremism attached itself to football and often expressed itself as hooliganism.
Ken Bates, who sold Chelsea to Roman Abramovich, said this week: ‘The National Front sold their magazines in the Fulham Road and used to wait in the pub opposite to learn the team selection. If they (the Chelsea players) were all white, the National Fronters used to walk across and buy their tickets.
‘It is a lot different today, though it has been a long, tortuous journey. Slowly, things started to change. Thirty years on, it is a different world. Today the furore is over verbal abuse — not to be condoned or tolerated in the least — but meanwhile let us appreciate the progress that has been made.’
A Chelsea fan of nearly 40 years agreed with Bates’s interpretation of progress. Certainly, he thought Stamford Bridge had ‘become less overtly racist’. He said the black players who followed Canoville — Keith Jones, Keith Dublin in the early days — helped change attitudes.
Yet he still felt that an elderly fan who claimed not to rate former striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink might have been conditioned by old, if unspoken, racial prejudice.
Winning smiles: Chelsea show off the Champions League trophy
There appears to be no uniform or even logical standpoint among Chelsea fans. Ruud Gullit, as long ago as 1996, was the first black manager in the Premier League; Didier Drogba was one of the icons of the Abramovich era; the current assistant manager, Eddie Newton, and technical director, Michael Emenalo, are both black. Yet the yob thought to be doing the monkey routine allegedly taunts an opposition player on the basis of his skin colour.
The club are owned by a Jew and their chairman, Bruce Buck, is a Jew. Yet, as recently as a week ago last Saturday, Chelsea fans made their customary hissing noises at the Tottenham fans, imitating the gas chambers of the Holocaust.
The contradictions and hypocrisy go on — and not only at Chelsea, of course, but home and abroad, as we saw in the England Under 21 game in Serbia, where the home fans made monkey noises.
Football — not only Stamford Bridge — is regularly a window into society’s unsavoury recesses.
Deep tribal enmities lend our national game a febrile edge — and, let’s face it, venom — that you do not encounter at other sporting events, from the champagne-quaffers tottering out of Royal Ascot to the beer-and-burger crowd at a rugby league match.
Inside some football grounds you can be met with a moral dilemma: what behaviour to tolerate from those around you. Do you abandon your principles or speak up and risk a smack in the face
Bridge of sighs: The monkey chant from the Chelsea 'fan' was in the same part of the ground where the steward was injured during the Premier League game against Manchester United
But back to Chelsea. What they are culpable for is the high-handed manner that has often characterised the Abramovich era of arrogance. We remember the phrase ‘the enemies of football’, deployed by the UEFA referees’ committee chairman Volker Roth at then manager Jose Mourinho over the claim he made that Swedish referee Anders Frisk colluded with Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard at half-time in Chelsea’s defeat at the Nou Camp seven years ago.
To be called an enemy of football by a faceless official in Europe is bad enough; to be known as such by the neutral majority in your homeland is worse, and it is undoubtedly the label that would fit Chelsea if their accusations that Clattenburg racially abused Mikel turn out to be unsustainable.
How could it be otherwise when they rashly briefed the press just a couple of hours after the alleged incident in their Premier League defeat by Manchester United on Sunday
Should they not merely have made their initial concerns known to the match delegate, as the protocol dictates, and kept quiet while they considered whether to pursue the matter
They could then have filed a rational, formal complaint or discreetly dropped the whole thing.
Instead, after looking into the matter, they had to withdraw the accusation that Clattenburg had called Juan Mata a ‘Spanish t***’. They did, however, stand by their claim that Mikel was told: ‘Shut up, monkey.’
That was based on what Ramires, a Brazilian, believes he overheard Clattenburg say. Ramires’s recollection of events was translated for the rest of the team by David Luiz, a fellow Brazilian who did not hear Clattenburg say the offending word. Mikel, who speaks good English, did not hear the insult either.
So did Clattenburg, who has a Geordie accent, say monkey or Mikel
Certainly, it beggars belief that the other officials, assistant referees Simon Long and Michael McDonough and fourth official Mike Jones, would cover for Clattenburg if they heard on their earpieces that a racist slur had been uttered. Why would they lie with 20 Sky cameras waiting to ambush them Would they endanger what is now a full-time job by misplaced loyalty
But Chelsea press on. This is the same Chelsea who blindly accepted Terry’s word, asked that his legal case be rearranged around their fixture list, doctored some of the ‘improbable, implausible and contrived’ evidence they gave to the FA and neglected the moral impulse to strip their tarnished talisman of the captaincy.
No wonder, with that example, one idiot acts like an ape.