Tensions high as FA Cup games revive racism rows
Updated: January 25, 2012, 14:28
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LONDON(AP) The specter of two recent racist incidents will hang over the FA Cup this weekend, with tensions high as the clubs involved prepare to play each other again.
Manchester United will travel to Anfield on Saturday for the first time since defender Patrice Evra was repeatedly racially abused by Liverpool striker Luis Suarez in a league match in October.
Chelsea captain John Terry is set to play at Queens Park Rangers days for the first time since prosecutors decided to charge him with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand in the last meeting of the west London clubs in October.
Terry's legal team will enter a not guilty plea on his behalf in a London court next week, with the defender not planning to attend the initial hearing.
Fears that any lingering animosity between the players or rival fans could boil over in the weekend matches have prompted statements appealing for calm from the four clubs and a strong police warning about abusive behavior.
Chelsea and QPR tried to quell any tensions by issuing a statement describing Saturday's fourth-round match as "a unique opportunity to show the world that hatred has no place in our game.''
The comments from Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and QPR counterpart Tony Fernandes came after talks between the clubs.
"Abuse and discrimination has no place in football or society,'' Buck and Fernandes said in the statement. "Both clubs enjoy fantastic support. However, we would remind fans that while we want to hear their passion, it's a fact that hatred and abuse is not what being a fan of Chelsea or QPR is about.
"The clubs will work together with the police to ensure that anyone using discriminatory or inflammatory language is identified and that the strongest possible action is taken against them.''
The spotlight will be on Ferdinand and Terry before the match to see if they shake hands, as is customary.
While racial abuse between players was the problem in the October matches, alleged taunts at Anfield was the issue in the third round of the FA Cup earlier this month.
With Liverpool still reeling from Suarez's eight-match ban for the verbal confrontation with Evra, its fans were accused of racially abusing an Oldham player at Anfield.
And police in Liverpool said Wednesday that a "firm, fair and friendly'' approach will be adopted for Saturday's visit of United.
Many meetings between the northwest rivals have been fraught with drama, but United manager Alex Ferguson has written to his club's fans to ensure they do not step over the mark with their behavior at Anfield.
"Your support is vital to the team and down the years that has been especially true at Anfield,'' Ferguson wrote. "But please put the emphasis on getting us into the next round and giving the sort of support you are famous for - positive, witty and loud.''
Police warned that all allegations of offensive conduct will be thoroughly investigated.
"We cannot allow this type of behavior to affect the enjoyment of genuine fans, especially families with young children who attend the game,'' match commander chief superintendent Jon Ward said in a statement. "We will continue with our efforts to deal with the small number of individuals who commit offenses at football matches, in particular with the continued use of football-banning orders.''
The racism cases prompted a British parliamentary committee to launch an investigation into whether enough is being done to combat the problem in football, with a hearing due to take place in March that could hear evidence from the accused and victims.
On Wednesday morning, nine men were arrested by police investigating suspected racist chanting by supporters of Charlton Athletic on a train back from their FA Cup match at London rival Fulham on Jan. 7.
"These recent arrests are saddening to all those who have worked so hard over many decades,'' Charlton chief executive Stephen Kavanagh said.