LONDON – The racism trial of John Terry began Monday with prosecutors claiming the Chelsea captain acknowledges using offensive language as a "sarcastic exclamation."
The England defender came face to face in court with Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, whom he is accused of racially abusing during a Premier League match in October. The 31-year-old Terry faces a maximum fine of $3,900 if he becomes the first top soccer player in England convicted of racial abuse during a game.
Ferdinand, who is black, gave evidence that he had not initially heard Terry use racist language during the match at Loftus Road. Ferdinand said he became aware of the apparent racial slur from YouTube footage. Ferdinand said he would have reported the remarks to game officials if he realized what had been said.
"When someone brings your color into (abuse), it takes it to another level and it's very hurtful," Ferdinand said.
Ferdinand told Westminster Magistrates' Court that his initial intention was not to ensure Terry faced a criminal prosecution, saying he thought it was a matter for England's Football Association. But he later changed his mind and went to the police, a decision he says wasn't influenced by his management team.
"I made up my own mind, I wanted to do it," said Ferdinand, the brother of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.
Terry sat in the dock behind a screen opposite Ferdinand, occasionally looking up and spending most of the time making notes.
Prosecutors opened the trial by saying Terry's comments were "uttered by way of sarcastic exclamation or inquiry in relation to a perceived false accusation made by Mr. Ferdinand" to the effect that the defendant had used a racial expletive.
Prosecutor Duncan Penny said Terry's remarks were made in response to "goading by Mr. Ferdinand on the issue of his extra-marital affair, rather than by way of exaggerated and instant querying of a perceived false allegation."
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy before the 2010 World Cup following allegations he had an affair with teammate Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend.
Ferdinand told the court that Chelsea defender Ashley Cole reproached him after the game for abusing Terry about his private life.
"You can't talk to JT like that," Cole said, according to Ferdinand, who "responded to him by saying, 'I'm a big man — I can talk to anyone I want, the way I want.'"
Two weeks after Terry played in England's quarterfinal loss to Italy at the European Championship, the court only heard from him via statements read out from interviews last year with the police and FA.
Terry claimed Ferdinand had shouted a "number of abusive comments" toward him and made "at least one obscene gesture with his hand, a pumping action clearly directed at me and no other Chelsea player."
"I felt he was accusing me of making a racist remark, which is simply not true," Terry said in police interviews read out to the court.
Terry's defense questioned Ferdinand on "why he was so angry" in the match after the Chelsea player tried to win a penalty. Ferdinand said that made him angry because "I'm a winner" but added he is usually a "calm and collected player."
This case, which is being heard by chief magistrate Howard Riddle, led to Terry losing the England captaincy he had regained after the 2010 affair allegations.
Fabio Capello quit as England coach in February when FA chiefs stripped Terry of the captaincy, although the defender was allowed to play at Euro 2012 under new coach Roy Hodgson.
Rob Harris can be reached at www.twitter.com/RobHarris