LONDON, England, October 22 – Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand trained as normal on Monday, amid British media reports of a showdown with coach Alex Ferguson over his refusal to wear an anti-racism T-shirt.
Ferdinand was taking part in a protest by certain black players, led by Reading striker Jason Roberts, who claimed that the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign was not doing enough to deal with racism in the game.
The 33-year-old is also thought to be angry that Chelsea defender John Terry was only given a four-match ban after being found guilty of racially abusing Ferdinand’s brother Anton during a match against QPR last year.
After the United centre-back declined to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt prior to United’s 4-2 win at home to Stoke City on Saturday, Ferguson said it was an “embarrassment” to the club, and promised that he would be “dealt with”.
However, reports in several British newspapers claimed the pair had resolved their differences of opinion in a meeting on Sunday, and Ferdinand reported for training as usual at United’s Carrington training base on Monday morning.
Anton Ferdinand followed his brother’s example by refusing to don a Kick It Out T-shirt prior to QPR’s 1-1 draw with Everton on Sunday.
Despite the furore, Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chairman and Kick It Out ambassador Clarke Carlisle says it is not a matter that requires punishment.
“Sir Alex Ferguson is trying to reaffirm his unwavering support of the Kick It Out campaign and that’s fantastic,” he told Britain’s Press Association.
“But this should not be seen as player versus club or dissension from a player against their employer.
“This is about a group of players and some wider issues that transcend that relationship.
“We would not want to see Rio Ferdinand punished. As I said of the handshake saga, you can’t coerce any man against his will and to do so would be the complete opposite of what the campaign is for.
“Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out in his own interview he did not know why Jason Roberts or any other player would not want to wear the T-shirt, so I hope that conversation takes place in the next couple of days.”
Although his organisation has been the target of protests, Carlisle said he understood the players’ concerns.
“This is a group of players who are trying to make a statement,” he said.
“This is not a problem with Kick It Out per se, though they would like Kick It Out to be more vocal and authoritative.
“But the main point they would like to make is about the way governing bodies have approached issues over the past 12-18 months, the way they have investigated them and the expediency of those investigations, and how weak the sanctions were at the end of them.”
Racism has reared its head once again in English football in recent weeks.
The T-shirt protest arrived shortly after England’s stormy under-21 match in Serbia, after which England’s Danny Rose claimed he had been subjected to monkey chants from the crowd.
Meanwhile, police revealed they were also investigating a report of racist abuse from a supporter during the 1-1 draw between Sunderland and Newcastle United at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
Terry may have to wear an anti-racism armband if he captains Chelsea in their Champions League game at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, as part of a campaign against discrimination announced by UEFA on Monday.