Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand, left, is marked by Chelsea’s John Terry. (AP)Terry announced on Sunday night he would no longer make himself available for England national team duty, citing an impending disciplinary hearing related to allegations of racist abuse directed at an opposing player last season.
While a British court cleared Terry of criminal charges over his verbal clash with Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, English soccer’s governing body, The Football Association, ordered its own inquest into the events that took place during QPR’s 1-0 victory over Terry’s Chelsea last October.
“I am today announcing my retirement from international football,” Terry said in a statement.
“I am making this statement today in advance of the hearing of the FA disciplinary charge because I feel the FA, in pursuing charges against me where I have already been cleared in a court of law, have made my position with the national team untenable.”
Yet as much as Terry tries to portray himself as the victim in this matter, it is unlikely his words or actions will generate any sympathy from an English soccer public that long-since grew tired of the wayward antics of the game’s millionaire superstar.
It was back in 2001 when it first became apparent that Terry might be a player with an unseemly side to him when he and three Chelsea teammates partied noisily and drunkenly at a bar near London’s Heathrow Airport while distraught American tourists watched footage of the 9/11 tragedy just feet away.
The 31-year-old was embroiled in fresh controversy in early 2010 when he launched a failed attempt to prevent tabloid newspapers from revealing the details of his alleged affair with the mother of friend and colleague Wayne Bridge’s child.
While Terry’s behavior has become regarded as symptomatic of the problems involving today’s young soccer stars and their celebrity lifestyle, supporters of the national team were prepared to lay their personal feelings aside for as long as he shined for England. Terry was stripped of the England captaincy in the wake of the Ferdinand saga, an FA decision that led to the resignation of former national team head coach Fabio Capello, but he still played a valuable role as the side progressed to the quarterfinal of this summer’s Euro 2012.
Regardless of what charge or punishment the FA may have imposed, it is hard to see much justification for Terry’s announcement, and aside from a few Chelsea fans who will defend his honor no matter what, this move will only further entrench his status as English soccer’s most hated figure.
However, anyone who expects Terry’s on-field performances to be affected by the furor surrounding him may be in for a shock. Terry has suffered disappointment as a player, missing the penalty kick that would have given Chelsea the Champion’s League title in 2008, then missing out on his team’s 2012 triumph through suspension after a needless red card in the semifinal. But in many cases Terry’s play has been utterly unaffected even when the criticism and controversy were at their most fervent.
With Chelsea seeking to mount a serious challenge for the English Premier League title and to strongly defend its Champion’s League Crown, Terry’s influence will be more vital than ever even as the latest storm clouds circle around him. England, meanwhile, has lost the player who has been a stalwart member of the defense for nearly a decade. Given the baggage that comes with Terry, however, it may feel it is better off without him.