John Terry retired from International football on 23rd September 2012, after having represented England at the highest level for close to a decade, earning 78 caps. The reason for his decision was the 'untenable position' that the FA had put him in, by investigating the incident involving QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, despite being given the clean chit by the Chief Magistrate's Court, on account of the alleged offence not being proved beyond reasonable doubt. Terry's move has surprised many, including England's manager, Roy Hodgson. To the consternation of many, Hodgson had expressed the desire to see the matter come to a closure. It was preceded by his selection of Terry in the EURO '12 England squad despite the cloud of the trial hanging over his head. Hodgson's predecessor Capello resigned from his job protesting the FA's decision to strip Terry of his captaincy without seeking his opinion. But none of that matters as Terry has decided to end his career as an England International.
Many have expressed relief that Terry has departed the national team and even as pundits debate whether this is right move at all, talks of a possible comeback for Rio Ferdinand to the national fold have gained momentum. But it is time to look back on a player that has polarised opinion throughtout his career, if only for reasons other than his performances on the pitch.
Much ink has been spilled over likening his conduct off the pitch to that of an imperfect professional. But that is an unfair assessment of a truly remarkable footballer. Agreed, he has not been the epitome of a perfect individual in his dealings off the pitch, but the argument that sets a bad example for youngsters is a naive one. It assumes that his exceptional footballing ability is the last thing they would emulate. Also, a footballer should be judged by his ability to play the game and his commitment to the game. Coming to his alleged racist conduct on the pitch and the argument that such conduct would definitely be within the domain of his on field conduct. The Chief Magistrate's court cleared him, on the grounds that his conduct could not be read beyong reasonable doubt as racist. The FA inquiry employs a standard of proof which is much lower, the 'balance of probabilities' test. The FA might take severe action, if on 'balance of probabilities', it believes that Terry indeed abused Ferdinand racially. But the 'legal realism' theory reminds us that even judges are not immune from the circumstances they are asked to make decisions in. Add to that the fact that the FA panel is not a judicial one and the added media coverage to this case, the scope of a bias against Terry can not be ruled out.
As for his contribution to English football, even his fiercest critics would grudgingly acknowledge that he has been the bedrock of the English and Chelsea defencese over the course of this decade. He has always put his mind above his body when it came to representing both club and country. He has never shied from putting himself out there and proving through his performance that criticisms levelled against him were not entirely warranted. He was selected in the team of the tournament at World Cup 2006 and named UEFA defender of the year thrice. Surely, a player of some quality he is. No matter what the naysayers have said about him, former players such as Ray Wilkins have always cited his inpirations leadership qualities and his ability as an athlete for his selection at the International level.
Although many of us may not agree with Terry's take on the situation and some may even express relief at the fact that he is gone, there is no denying that England have lost a player that had so much to offer. On the bright side, Chelsea have everything to gain from his absence at England games. He can offer so much more to the Blues and they would love to adore him as their captain, their leader. But as we move on from this saga, one must glance in Terry's direction and acknowledge what he has done for the three lions, every time he has been asked to and at times, he just needed to.