Even a rape con­vict de­serves sec­ond chance, says Pen­nant

NEW LEAF Pune City’s lat­est re­cruit knows the flip­side of ‘be­ing judged by past’, backs dis­graced Evans

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - SPORT - Dhi­man Sarkar ■ dhi­man@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Nearly 15 years after he be­came the youngest Arse­nal debu­tant, the past still seems to get ahead of Jer­maine Pen­nant. So much so that he said join­ing FC Pune City was, among other things, “the best op­tion at the time to play some foot­ball and get my­self back on the radar again.”

From be­ing a record sign­ing for Arse­nal in 1999, Pen­nant be­came some­thing of a bad egg. Once he played a Premier­ship match wear­ing an elec­tronic tag be­cause he was un­der surveil­lance. Pen­nant sought pro­fes­sional help to get his life back on track in 2012 and 2013 and that’s why he said he thinks Ched Evans de­serves another chance.

“It’s un­think­able what he did but at the same time he is still plead­ing in­no­cence. So, I don’t think you can make a judg­ment yet. Some­thing’s not right about that. I have been in the wrong enough num­ber of times and at a young age, you make a mis­take, every­body makes mis­takes. He should get a sec­ond chance, yeah, a sec­ond chance,” Pen­nant told HT dur­ing his first in­ter­view in In­dia on Fri­day.

Evans, 25, was con­victed of rape and spent nearly two years in prison be­fore be­ing dis­charged last month. Evans’ bid to re­sume his foot­ball ca­reer at Sh­effield United, his last club, had 150,000 sign­ing a pe­ti­tion urg­ing the club to not take him back.

Be­ing judged by his past is some­thing Pen­nant knows well. He said it got in the way of rep­re­sent­ing Eng­land even though com­pet­ing with a cer­tain David Beck­ham didn’t help. “Abil­ity-wise I could have got a chance. You want your best play­ing for your coun­try. But then David Beck­ham is so much more than a foot­baller while I kept get­ting judged by my past is­sues... Know what, I think I am the only English foot­baller to have played a Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, been ad­judged Man of the Match, and still not play for Eng­land,” he said.

The fi­nal was in 2007 when Liver­pool lost to AC Mi­lan. “That made it bit­ter­sweet. But com­ing off the pitch I told my­self I had just lived a dream,” he said.

For some­one who cred­its foot­ball from keep­ing him away from a life of drugs and crime, it does seem odd that Pen­nant would get into dis­ci­plinary is­sues. “You don’t know it then but cer­tain things from young age af­fect your adult life,” he said.

Pen­nant said he thanks “Arsene and Arse­nal” for nur­tur­ing his ca­reer but ac­cepted he didn’t live up to po­ten­tial. “I had great play­ers in front, such as (Robert) Pires, Syl­vain Wil­tord, Fred­die Ljung­berg and Ray Par­lour some­times but I still thought I would get 20 min­utes some­times, the odd Cup game. That was prob­a­bly when I started get­ting frus­trated, get­ting angry.”

ABIL­ITY-WISE I COULD HAVE GOT A CHANCE. BUT THEN BECK­HAM IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A FOOT­BALLER WHILE I KEPT GET­TING JUDGED BY MY PAST PEN­NANT, on trou­ble to break

into na­tional side

GETTY IMAGES

Jer­maine Pen­nant says the ISL is the best op­tion he has to play some foot­ball.

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