Six Years On, John Terry's Slip Against Man Utd Is Still The Greatest Moment In Football History
It is every little kid’s dream. You’re the captain of your boyhood team, playing in the Champions League final. The match has gone to penalties, and you have a chance to win it all, for not just your club but for your friends, family, teammates, sponsors, your girlfriend, your other girlfriends your real girlfriend doesn’t know about, yourself.
Perhaps curiously, when you dream of those things, it usually comes down to last minute winners, a rehash of Maradona’s goal against England, Cruyff-esque moments of skill, penalty shootouts, rather than commanding 5-0 victories. This might be nonsense but perhaps shows that as much as footballers will say it’s ‘about the team’ and ‘all about the three points’, they’d massacre a village of orphans for the personal glory of scoring a winning goal in the last minute of a major tournament.
Also when you’re a little boy, in your bedroom, kicking a football that’s flatter than the Netherlands into a radiator, pretending you’re scoring winning goals for the team whose poster adorns your bedroom wall, in your head you’re popular, adored, loved. The crowd sings your name, the press laud you like the conquering hero you are. It’s safe to say however, that trolls on Twitter calling you ‘overrated’, making terrible memes involving you and making you go on Sulia to look at cr***y pictures of your car probably wasn’t in your thoughts.
In 2008, Twitter was still in its infancy, Banter™ wasn’t the industry it is now and Chelsea despite being ‘managed’ by Avram Grant, were one of the best teams in Europe. Although they weren’t as good as they had been under Jose Mourinho, when week after week they beat teams to a pulp without giving them so much as a sniff of a draw, never mind a win.
But there they were, in the Champions League final, in Moscow, in a penalty shoot-out against Manchester United. Roman Abramovich, in his home country, watching from the VIP (Very Important P***ks) area, couldn’t have plotted the story better if he was the highest paid scriptwriter in Hollywood. Though saying that if my viewing of Jack and Jill is anything to go by, he probably could write better plot-lines than many a highly garlanded Hollywood scriptwriter.
Still, John Terry, CLL (Captain Leader Legend) of Chelsea, having decided he would take the decisive 5th penalty, strode up to the ball, knowing if he put the ball into the net past Edwin van der Sar, Chelsea would win the Champions League. This was the moment, when he wasn’t idling his time lusting over his mates girlfriends, he had been dreaming of since he was a little boy.
This was when Chelsea were at their most unpopular. Let’s be clear - unless you’re a fan of the club, no one likes Chelsea. No-one. Who can like vapid, graceless, humourless fans that are openly anti-Semitic and support a club that has had Ken Bates and Roman Abramovich as its last two chairmen? And this is Chelsea - Chelsea, one of the safest Tory seats in the country, home of the terrible reality show, where the average price of a house is £1,478,675. Show me someone who’s bought a house for over a million quid who isn’t an imbecile of the highest order, and I’ll show you a liar.
Not to mention in their squad at the time the Tory voters (Lampard), divers (Drogba), egotists who worship their creators (Terry) and sulkers (Anelka). Not to mention Mourinho concocting ever wilder conspiracy theories as to why his team started losing more, the way they hounded Anders Frisk into retirement and briefly a life on the run when they accused him of favouring Barcelona in a Champions League tie. They were sore winners as well as sore losers.
The player who personified this maelstrom of hatefulness was John Terry. He later said about Guus Hiddink ‘he kept in touch with me - which shows the measure of the man’. He has allegedly copped off with his mate’s ex-girlfriend and racially abused another player in a match. Did he apologise? Of course not. Even if innocent, an apology or a calming word would have done wonders. He has got many a manager sacked at the club he supposedly loves so much. He’s the worst type of Englishman - the sort who rolls his sleeves up, barks orders and does things for Queen and country.
All these factors meant that Chelsea winning would have been desperately unpopular. In this final, a few more neutrals than normal would have been cheering them on because they were playing Manchester United, the Darth Vader figure of British football, with Sir Alex Ferguson the dastardly Emperor Palpatine.
But a victory for Chelsea would have been a victory for all the things football is supposed to abhor: ridiculous wealth; arrogance; ungrateful supporters. There is an endemic unhappiness about them, how little true glory there is in not just the way they play football but the way they’ve made it to the top.
Victory was there for Chelsea though. All they needed was for Terry to score a penalty. But as Brian Moore, ‘he whose head looks vaguely like London Planetarium’, said during the penalty shootout between Spurs and Anderlecht in the 1984 UEFA Cup final, ‘the goal will look half its size and the goalkeeper will look double his size’.
Still, Terry strode forward to take the penalty. But as he committed to his strike, he started to slip. It had rained in Moscow all night, and at the most important moment in Chelsea Football Club’s history, with everything on the line, a wet pitch cost them dearly. Terry, captain of club and country, Mr Dependable, fell on his a**e. His penalty hit the outside of the post. Chelsea’s collective heart sank. Anelka missed shortly after, and United were champions of Europe again.
As an atheist, the most charismatic and fervent of Christians have completely failed to persuade me a God exists. But John Terry, slipping on his a**e when taking a penalty to win the Champions League final, was the closest I’ve come to believing in a higher power.
When talking about the greatest moment in football history you are usually referring to those occasions of sublime brilliance, either individual or collective. Carlos Alberto’s 4th goal in the 1970 World Cup final, Ryan Giggs’ winning goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal, Michael Thomas and Sergio Aguero’s goals winning the league in 1989 and 2012 for Arsenal and Manchester City respectively, both in the last minute of the league season, Maradona’s goal against England in 1986, even Jimmy Glass’s goal for Carlisle in 1999, keeping them in the football league.
But football is as much about the failures as it is about the successes. Defeats for your rivals often match, if not exceed, the feeling of delight you get from your own team winning. A player you hate being sent off provides a thrill comparable to your side scoring a goal.
And has anything provided universal laughter, happiness and joy like John Terry’s tears on the Moscow pitch after he’d missed that penalty, the penalty that would have won his team the Champions League? I doubt it. Even if you were an ardent anti-fan of Manchester United, you’d struggle to not enjoy the Captain Leader Legend falling on his backside at the one time he didn’t want to fall on his backside.
For denying Chelsea a Champions League trophy, for making John Terry cry, his slip in the 2008 Champions League final is undoubtedly the greatest moment in football history.
This extract came courtesy of Jack Howes, and he is most definitely on Twitter
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