Former England defender Rio Ferdinand was racially abused by a “fixated” football fan during a Premier League match, including a monkey gesture, a court had heard.
Jamie Arnold is accused of abusing Mr Ferdinand by using “threatening, abusive or abusive” words or behavior at the Wolves v Manchester United game on 23 June.
Footage allegedly showing him making a racist gesture was played to the jury during the opening of the 32-year-old’s trial by prosecutors at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
Mr Ferdinand had been at the game – the first time fans had returned to the ground since the coronavirus pandemic began – and was working as a television pundit for BT Sport, the court heard.
The former United star testified from the witness stand on Monday and said that although he noticed the man and his “more aggressive body language”, he had not seen a monkey gesture or heard any racial slurs.
Mr Ferdinand said the atmosphere on the ground was “cheerful” and he was recognized on the outside broadcast bridge by nearby Wolves fans who were “engaged in a bit of banter”.
He agreed the banter was “usually” good humored.
Mr Ferdinand said he had become aware of a handful – around four or five – of Wolves supporters who were “just a little bit more serious”, adding one had been “more aggressive”.
“A bit more aimed at me, definitely. Fixed.”
Asked if he was “engaging” with this man, Mr Ferdinand said: “I gave him a little bit back, jovial like, I gave that person a knowing nod when it was 2-1 (for Manchester United) was.”
Mr Ferdinand was asked under cross-examination by defense lawyer Andrew Baker if he had seen Arnold make a monkey gesture at him, to which the ex-footballer replied “no”.
He added that he did not hear the defendant shouting anything offensive at him.
However, Mr Ferdinand “suspected” Arnold gave him the ‘w****r’ sign and as United went 2-1 up he recalled: “pointing at him and laughing 100 per cent at that person “.
“I just go back to them to say ‘remember,’ like they probably did to me when it went 1-1 (when Wolves scored).”
Stuart Munden-Edge, one of the expert’s close security teams, said he scanned the crowd and spotted a man early on calling “Mr. Ferdinand aw***** called”.
He continued to watch the man and said, “There was one occasion when he received no response from Rio and posed as a hunchbacked monkey with his hands under his armpits and pointing at Mr. Ferdinand.”
He alerted a steward, and the man was later thrown from the stands.
Lifelong Wolves supporter Mark Zammit, who won his ticket to the game in a fan vote, said the atmosphere of the game was exciting.
“It was emotional because it was the first game since the pandemic and the last game in charge by the first team manager,” he said.
He said: “About 15 minutes into Manchester United scored to make it 1-0 and as there were no away fans we could hear most things pretty clearly so we could hear Rio celebrating on the gantry because he was a United fan .”
Mr Zammit told jurors the reaction of a male supporter, two rows in front of him, saying: “He shouted at Rio about the abuse and made a monkey gesture with his hands under his arms.
“He yelled ‘Rio you damn monkey’.”
“I was in complete disbelief, I was shocked, I’m used to joking around football stadiums but in my time I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Mr Zammit, who said he was “shamed and embarrassed”. the behavior of the fan.
Opening the criminal case, Jason Aris said the game should be “a happy day for football fans in Wolverhampton”.
He continued, “Unfortunately, things turned sour with what we say was this defendant, Jamie Arnold, in attendance.
“He wasn’t there to behave, watch the football game and enjoy the day.”
Addressing the alleged offence, Mr Aris said: “The defendant was in the Billy Wright stand and put his hands under his armpits and started jumping around.
“Prosecutors say he was clearly trying to impersonate a monkey, clearly, say, in the direction of Mr. Ferdinand – that was not only offensive but racist.”
The jury was shown a 25-second video taken from longer footage showing a man in the stands gesturing in the manner described.
He added that Arnold was “awkward early in the game” and “started using homophobic abuse at umpire Mike Dean.”
When Arnold was arrested and cautioned by local police, he reportedly replied, “I knew as soon as I did it that I was a stupid c***.”
“Prosecutors say this is important because this is a clear admission of guilt by this defendant — that he did something offensive, racist and uncomfortable.”
Arnold, from Norton Bridge near Stone, Staffordshire, denies wrongdoing and the trial, which is expected to last a week, is continuing.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/rio-ferdinand-racist-abuse-wolves-fan-b2140937.html Rio Ferdinand was attacked with a racist “monkey gesture” by Wolves fan, the court said