England / World Cup - International

Soccer affairs

After a week of rampant speculation in the British press, Fabio Capello announced today that John Terry is out as captain of England.

It all started over the past weekend when, after a super-injunction brought about by his lawyers was overturned by a  British high Court, the news broke that England The Brave captain John Terry, who has a wife and two children, had had an affair with the estranged partner of England teammate Wayne Bridge. The British press went into what at first seemed to be an all too predictable case of the vapors with an explosion of stories wondering if Terry was fit for the captaincy of either the England team or Chelsea. Scoring the winning goal against Burnley last Saturday, Terry stoically did not celebrate, barely acknowledging the congratulations of his teammates, some of whom must have been thinking, “If he’s on the pitch with me then he can’t be shagging my girlfriend.”

Which is of course the point: while some decried Terry’s promiscuity in the usual entirely ridiculous moral terms – “He’s supposed to be a role model, gasp! Blah, blah, blah . . . ” – the real concern was one of team unity. A team captain hopping into bed with his teammates ladies does not bode well for the kind of team spirit that wins World Cups, particularly when you remember that both Terry and Bridge are defenders. If you had just learned Terry had shagged the mother of your child, might you not be just a little bit slower to back him up when, say, Lionel Messi is on a run up the middle?

Terry & Toni, Vanessa & Bridge. Wynalda & Harkes with Mrs. Wynalda - wait a sec, that's Chris Sullivan!

“High school stuff,” you might think, “professionals should be able to compartmentalize such off-field shenanigans.” And you might be right – it did all sound like a plot line from Footballers Wives or Dream Team.

But consider this: also earlier this week former USA manager Steve Sampson revealed that the reason he dropped team captain John Harkes from the 1998 World Cup squad just two months before the start of the games was because Harkes was having an affair with teammate Eric Wynalda’s wife. Sampson needed to salvage plummeting morale within the squad. He recently told the AP, “It’s one thing to have an affair outside the team. It’s another to have one inside. There are just certain lines that one cannot cross.” Concerned that if he revealed the real reason for dropping Harkes that the resulting media attention would cause further damage Sampson said at the time that Harkes had been dropped because of his refusal of a position change and unspecified “leadership issues.”

Not that it did any good. The US managed to score only one goal in the course of losing all games in the group stages to finish with the worst record of any team in the 1998 World Cup.

So, there you have it. The Terry story and surrounding media cloud was completely absurd and absolutely hilarious. But, if you are an England supporter, it was also very serious. Officials at the FA had told England manager Fabio Capello that Terry’s captaincy was untenable if “dressing room harmony” would be affected.

Capello apparently agreed. After a meeting with Terry that lasted only twelve minutes, Capello took the captaincy away, later telling the press, “As a captain with the team, John Terry has displayed extremely positive behavior However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad. What is best for all of the England team has inspired my choice and John Terry was notified first.”

The controversy colored other stories throughout the week. Top of the table Chelsea dropped points on Tuesday in the championship race when they could only manage a 1-1 draw against 19th place Wolves. Throughout the match Terry was booed every time he touched the ball and was the subject of chants – “Same old Terry, always cheating,” “Chelsea, wherever you may be, don’t leave your wife with John Terry,” “Terry, Terry, where’s your wife?” – something he will surely have to expect for the foreseeable future. Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti announced after the match that he would give Terry time off to see his wife, who took their kids to Dubai (Sigh – whatever happened to going home to your mum?) when news of Terry’s affair broke which means he would miss Chelsea’s FA Cup match against Cardiff City.

At last Sunday’s match against Portsmouth, several Manchester City players wore shirts that read “Team Bridge” in support of their teammate. Bridge, who may be necessary cover for Ashley Cole on the England team, has said he would not play for England if Terry is also on the squad. He is expected to start for Manchester City against Hull this weekend after recovering from a knee injury suffered two months ago against Chelsea.

With speculation about Terry captaincy now over, speculation about who will replace him has begun, with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand leading contenders. Whether Terry will remain as captain of Chelsea is not yet known.

Hopefully, Carlos Bocanegra is smart enough to keep his pants on.

After this article was posted it was announced that Rio Ferdinand would be the new captain of England with Frank Lampard as his vice captain.

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