Unfortunately for Sir Alex Ferguson, Rio Ferdinand is not like the stereotypical modern footballer; he is not a tool and he has enough sense to spot when something is wrong.
It would be wrong to publicly back a campaign that did little to help his younger brother during his case against John Terry. It was foolish for Sir Alex to tell the press that all his players would wear the KIO shirts without first getting verbal assurance from Rio that he would comply, knowing full well that it was an overwhelming possibility that he might choose to not wear it. You can lead a horse to water but you cannot force it to drink.
Kick It Out are a foundation that mean well but the harsh reality is that you can count all of their full-time staff on one hand and they receive their financial resources, the resources that essentially allow them to survive, from the FA. For this reason, it is very hard for KIO to publicly bite the hand that feeds them. Rio has already seen this and knows he can’t give his backing to such a toothless campaign and essentially undo all the hard work he has done for racial equality in football in the past.
It is sad that Ferguson has said that he will have to ‘deal with’ Ferdinand for standing up for what he believes in. The part that bothers me is that Ferguson is not going to punish him because he didn’t support an anti-racism campaign but because he undermined his manager. That, unfortunately, must be the saddest thing of all. I respect Sir Alex immensely, in fact I think he is the greatest British manager of all time. It it because of this that I am disappointed that he couldn’t put his ego aside for a player who must be on par with Scholes and Giggs as one of his greatest allies at Old Trafford.
A lot has gone on for Ferdinand this year and much of it has not been pleasant. First his brother was racially abused by the man who served as his central defensive partner for much of his golden years in an England shirt, then he loses the Premier League by a single point and soon after that he loses his England place for Euro 2012 because of the aforementioned saga (even if Roy Hodgson didn’t admit it). Not to mention that his powers have pretty much deserted him over the last year or so and it’s hard to think why Sir Alex isn’t taking a more lenient stance towards Ferdinand, especially since the ‘crime’ he committed was victimless.
At the time of writing, Ferdinand hasn’t formally been punished by his manager but I don’t see Sir Alex swallowing his pride and letting Ferdinand walk away scott free. If there’s one thing Sir Alex hates, it’s people thinking that he doesn’t have undisputed control of the Old Trafford dressing room and that is what Ferdinand’s actions have suggested. The ball is in Fergie’s court now and my hope is that he acts in a way that doesn’t shame himself, the fans, and Manchester United football club as a whole.
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