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You Couldn't Make It Up

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Billy Connolly once said that hypocrisy is the Vaseline of political intercourse. Well, the politicians of football and their media agitators are about to launch themselves into an orgy.

If many of us found the taste of hypocrisy and the destruction of natural justice in the John
Terry case rancid and grotesque, then we are about to endure being force fed a great deal more of it in the coming weeks and months as the ramifications of the Mark Clattenburg race row develop. Indeed, it is happening already.

What do we know of the events? We know that Clattenburg had a dreadful match for sure but it pales into insignificance when set against the alleged abuse of two Chelsea players. Chelsea officials are said to have challenged John Obi Mikel for two hours, urging him to be certain about what happened before proceeding with a formal complaint. Several players are said to support him. Clattenburg denies it and so we must now wait for the investigations.

Suddenly, the FA, so brazen in their determination to skewer due process in the Terry case, have a real problem. And the media, who were so eager to promote the concept of Terry's innate racism, even after he was found not guilty in a court of law, are beset by a real sense of hysteria, the awful truth of what is happening beginning to dawn on them. Already we have seen several articles raising question marks over Chelsea's complaint, the suggestion being it is malicious. James Lawton called the club "bitterly aggrieved", Matthew Syed of the Times raised the question of the complaint's veracity twice in one article and in the same newspaper, Oliver Holt, a cheerleader for the pursuit of Terry at all costs has the shameless temerity to angrily evoke the concept of innocence until proven guilty and about mud sticking. The Evening Standard ran a piece in which Neil Warnock called the club "despicable" and demanded the complainants "get done".

That it is John Obi Mikel who is at the centre of the complaint appears not to have struck any of the correspondents as ironic. Maybe it has but the awful, inconvenient irony of it has struck them dumb instead. It is imperative that they keep the idea of a malicious complaint alive but this is Mikel, the same Mikel who many in the media were so eager to point out (spitefully and erroneously) was unprepared to support John Terry, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Would a man who, it is claimed, had reason to distance himself from Terry launch a profoundly serious complaint in order to effect "revenge" on his behalf?

It does not appear to occur to those commentators who are currently desperately seeking a foothold in the matter that their suggestions of malice and mischief are deeply insulting to a player not known for his controversies, hotheadedness or emotionality. Does he not deserve to be given the sort of unending sympathy and respect that Anton Ferdinand was afforded? Does he not deserve to have his complaint considered genuine? Why should it have already become Clattenburg, the FA and half the world versus Chelsea Football Club? And what if the other complainant, Juan Mata? Here is a player who has spoken about moving on from the Terry affair, a calm, pleasant footballer; moreover, both he and Mikel have the intelligence to understand the implications of what their complaints have unleashed.

There is, also, a curiosity about what the recent campaigners Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand have to say on the matter. Rio was busy trolling on Twitter on Sunday night, trying to wind up Chelsea fans in a schoolboy fashion. He wasn't concerned that two of his fellow professionals were feeling deeply aggrieved at being abused, one of them a black player who was so incensed he exploded with fury at the referee after the game. It was never going to take long to put Ferdinand's credentials to the test but one really couldn't have imagined that his already wafer thin credibility would be so quickly smashed to pieces. One expects he will keep his mouth shut henceforth and allow due process (should the FA permit it) to be exercised.

For the rest of us I offer guide to how to behave hereon;

Consider the complaint to be a genuine one.
Understand that Chelsea, of all clubs, is aware of its implications
Accept that nevertheless, Chelsea had no choice whatsoever but to support its players
That Clattenburg is innocent until proven guilty

What we eventually make of the processes used to arrive at Clattenburg's guilt or innocence is another matter.

For myself, I have no idea what Clattenburg did or did not say. I have sympathy for him should it all be a misunderstanding. Equally, I will find any campaign by the media to rubbish Mikel and Mata and their complaint to be abhorrent. Any character assassination of Clattenburg will be equally condemned as will (the more likely) attempts to paint pretty pictures of him. If he is found not guilty we must accept it, there must be no hints and suggestions that "we know what he is like, he did it". Should no clear evidence be found to condemn him, we must not point at Mikel's obvious fury at what he feels was said to him and say "no smoke without fire". If members of Mikel's family should step to the fore and have the light of self-interest shone upon them so that we see their faux-indignation and upset, we must remind them of Clattenburg's innocence and send them packing back to their furious little worlds of bitterness and vengeful spite.

It pains me to say that a bit of me will likely enjoy the unfathomable awkwardness that the whole case represents for the FA and the football press. I will, I am sorry to say, enjoy seeing how they manage to reconcile their recent history with their growing realisation that fate has dealt them a cruel, almost perfect and mouth-wateringly delicious blow.