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Racism will not vanish from football while it is present in society and the tendency of the weak-minded to lash out at those perceived as different will never disappear. It has been a persistent nagging presence in the game despite the strides made in the past two decades, but apparently at a low level or at some distance; a feature of away games in Italy, Spain and eastern Europe. No one could escape the issue at home in 2012 and 2013 may well be no different.
The year began with Luis Suarez serving his eight-match ban for using "insulting words ... [that] included a reference to Mr Evra's colour". The incident the previous October continues to reverberate - Suarez's refusal of Patrice Evra's handshake in the rematch merely aggravated what would still be an inescapable talking point around Liverpool's trip to Manchester United this Sunday. But it was as nothing to the other prominent carry-over from 2011.
John Terry may be back in action at Stoke this weekend, following November's coming together with Suarez. In February Chelsea had their man's criminal case for a racially aggravated public order offence delayed until the summer, at which point the FA felt compelled to strip the Blues' captain of his national armband, a move that led Fabio Capello to resign as England manager. In July Terry was acquitted by a court where a magistrate had to use "beyond a reasonable doubt" as the burden of proof; in September an FA independent inquiry, working on "the balance of probabilities", found him guilty.
Liverpool's mishandling of the Suarez affair tarnished the club and played a part in the departure of a number of staff members. Sadly for those of us who can remember the protestant former Celtic star who then shattered the Merseyside colour bar by signing John Barnes, Kenny Dalglish was among those who erred. Suarez by his own admission used a word whose most natural interpretation would be as a racist slur and so owed Evra an apology, even if the rest of the Uruguayan's evidence was also true. Yet all that damage cannot compare to the fallout from Terry's altercation with Anton Ferdinand.
While the Uruguayan was found to have repeated the Spanish word negro over and over, this was the England captain. And his words were not merely reported, but the video was there for all to see, so easy to make out that Sky Sports News had to cover his mouth, and papers had to weigh up whether, and how often, to print the accompanying obscenities. This probably contributed to the outrage felt in some quarters at the sanction imposed, which led to sudden uncertainty over levels of support for the Kick It Out campaign, under whose auspices much had appeared to change.
In both cases, questions are asked about whether the punishment was sufficient, perhaps most stridently by those suggesting a new black players' union is needed because eight- and four-game bans were inadequate.
Not even the QPR defender comes out of it well, his language to Terry escaping punishment because it was not picked up at the time. His elder brother, Rio, endorsed a slur against Ashley Cole and was in turn punished for it and the Chelsea full-back's defence of Terry - like Glen Johnson's backing of Suarez - shows that racism is by no means a black and white issue.
It had seemed that it was in the past, when players representing British national teams and clubs have been on the receiving end. On Wednesday the FA appealed against the UEFA bans imposed on Steven Caulker and Thomas Ince for their part in the fracas at the Under-21s' play-off in Serbia, but to anyone who has felt England has been sanctimonious over racism the Terry affair, especially, provides ammunition and every time he and Suarez step on to the pitch the issue is in the air.
Perhaps, finally, the international governing bodies are taking proper action, UEFA appealing for stronger penalties against Serbia and FIFA imposing proper sanctions this week against Hungary and Bulgaria, forcing them to play behind closed doors. The Magyars will not be cheered to the echo in their World Cup qualifier derby against Romania following antisemitic chants during August's friendly with Israel, while Bulgaria will play Malta in an empty ground following the racial abuse of Denmark's Patrick Mtiliga in October.
But our game remains overwhelmingly white in administration and management, not reflecting the diversity on the pitch. Behaviour in the stands has been brought into focus and as a travelling England fan I am always aware of an undercurrent of contempt for the other.
The heyday of racism in the British game was long ago - it is decades since the National Front sold its magazine outside grounds and fans felt no compunction about victimising one of their own team's players en masse. But 2012 has told us that in 2013 we must not be complacent.