Chelsea and England football captain John Terry vowed on Wednesday to prove his innocence after prosecutors said he would face criminal charges over allegations he racially abused QPR's Anton Ferdinand.
Terry was ordered to appear in a magistrates court on February 1 over the incident during a Premier League match in October.
Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, said: "I have today advised the Metropolitan Police Service that John Terry should be prosecuted for a racially aggravated public order offence following comments allegedly made during a Premier League football match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea on 23 October 2011."
She added: "After careful consideration of all the evidence, I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case.
"Mr Terry will appear before West London Magistrates Court on 1 February 2012.
"He is now summonsed with a criminal offence and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice his trial."
Terry, reacting to the charge, said in a statement: "I am disappointed with the decision to charge me and hope to be given the chance to clear my name as quickly as possible.
"I have never aimed a racism remark at anyone and count people from all races and creeds among my friends," added the 31-year-old, who has spent his entire professional career with London club Chelsea.
"I will fight tooth and nail to prove my innocence. I have campaigned against racism and believe there is no place for it in society."
Chelsea have been steadfast in support of Terry and in a statement the club said: "John has made it clear he denies the charge. Chelsea FC has always been fully supportive of John and will continue to be so.
"Chelsea FC will not be commenting further while the legal case runs its course."
Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas, speaking ahead of the Crown Proscecution Service (CPS) decision, said Wednesday: "The only thing I know is that I will be fully supportive of John Terry, whatever the outcome.
"He has my full support, he has the club's full support.
"We know exactly his human values and personality. They are never in doubt."
The decision to press charges came a day before Chelsea, fourth in the table, travel to third-placed Tottenham for a highly anticipated London derby in which Terry is expected to play.
Terry was stripped of the England captaincy before the 2010 World Cup finals over an alleged affair with an ex-girlfriend of former Chelsea teammate Wayne Bridge, but the central defender was later reinstated as captain.
The CPS move regarding Terry came a day after the Football Association handed Liverpool striker Luis Suarez an eight game-ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra during a league match in October.