|At odds: Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand|
After global fury over John Terry's "not guilty" verdict on Friday, English football is threatening to dissolve in to civil war over racism. The Terry camp, cockahoop after magistrate Howard Riddle decided the words "f***ing black *c**t" were not insulting, now insist Rio Ferdinand is a racist for agreeing that Ashley Cole is a "choc-ice".
Manchester United star Rio, brother of Terry's victim Anton, insists he was simply being "sarcastic" but Chelsea left-back Cole's lawyers have now produced a statement on their client's behalf. Cole acted as a "corroborative but not compelling" defence witness for pal Terry according to Riddle's bizarre judgement on Friday.
A "choc ice" is a popular ice-cream in England which is, of course "brown on the outside, cold and white inside".
Rio, who has over three MILLION followers on Twitter, received this tweet: "Looks like Ashley Cole's going to be their choc-ice. Then again he's always been a sell out. Shame on him."
To which Ferdinand responded: "I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic! hahahahahahha!!" Rio added: "And if I want to laugh at something someone tweets....I will! Hahahahaha! Now stop getting ya knickers in a twist!"
As the storm grew, Rio tweeted an explanation yesterday saying: "What I said yesterday is not a racist term. Its a type of slang/term used by many for someone who is being fake. So there."
In South Africa, where incredulity over Friday's judgement may lead to a boycott of watching the popular English Premier League, sympathy is generally with Rio who arrives on tour with United this week for friendlies in Durban and Cape Town.
My appearances on eNews, SupersportBlitz and radio stations 702 and Cape Talk on Friday night rubbishing Riddle's judgement appeared to suggest huge anger against Terry and the British justice system on the local social networks.
Ironically, Rio, Cole and Terry have frequently made up three of England's back-four in recent years but sympathy for Terry - and Cole - is hard to find outside of Chelsea circles.
Cole's lawyers said: "Ashley Cole has been made aware of the discussion following comments appearing on Twitter and wishes to make it clear that he and Rio Ferdinand are good friends and Ashley has no intention of making any sort of complaint. Ashley appreciates that tweeting is so quick it often results in off-hand and stray comments."
Cole has yet to comment on Ferdinand's latest tweet. Terry - and Anton Ferdinand, who admitted to taunting his rival over past affairs - will now face Football Association charges as I suggested on Friday. Given that Liverpool's Luis Suarez was banned for eight games and fined £40,000 (R480,000) with far less evidence, the FA are now compelled to punish Terry for words which were clearly uttered on YouTube footage when Chelsea played QPR last October.
Unlike a criminal case, the FA have to prove Terry guilty on "a balance of probabilities" not "beyond reasonable doubt".
Herman Ouseley, chair of the anti-racism group Kick It Out, told the Observer in England yesterday: "I am worried that this is a defining moment for the FA, to show it is a governing body prepared to keep to a high standard on the racism issue.
"If this incident, and the racial element of it, is not seen to be dealt with properly, there is the potential for black players to lose confidence in the authorities and withdraw their support for anti-racism campaigns."