Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Were Liverpool right not to appeal the Luis Suárez ban?

Luis Suárez (left) confronts Patrice Evra (right)
When I first heard about the Evra-Suárez racism affair, I thought Evra had sunk to even lower lows. Having been at the game I saw him diving, feigning injury, jostling and chasing after the referee every five minutes.

I knew Suárez had bitten another player before joining Liverpool and provided the handball that knocked my favourites, Ghana, out of the World Cup.

But his form for the club has been unbelievable, even United fans couldn’t deny that.

So I immediately leapt to his defence, rejecting the very idea that our super Suárez could have done such a thing. I mean, surely racism went out of the game (and modern society) decades ago?

Well clearly not, and the Independent Regulatory Committee’s 115-page dossier on the incident appears to agree. The committee stated that Suárez referred to Evra as “negro” (“black”) on seven occasions during the October 15 fixture.

Suárez's lawyers argued that it is common practice to address a person by referring to an element of their appearance across Latin America, including terms relating to size, weight, hair colour and skin colour.

Furthermore, “negrito”, the Spanish term he initially claimed to have used, is less clear cut than the English word “negro”. Having a decent knowledge of Italian, I knew that the “ito” ending was a diminutive and is often used to express affection. An example of this might be Ronaldinho, whose real name is Ronaldo, but for whom the diminutive ending “inho” is used as a term of endearment.

So what’s the problem then? Well the use of the “ito” at the end of the word can also be used to belittle someone. Used in the context of a fiercely contested derby game between two players in which blatant animosity was apparent to even the most distracted of spectators, it was adjudged that the Uruguayan “probably” wasn’t showing Evra some love, even if he did use "negrito" rather than "negro".

Commenting on the alleged incident, Suárez said: "Never, I repeat, never, have I had any racial problem with a teammate or individual who was of a different race or colour to mine … In my country, 'negro' is a word we use commonly, a word which doesn't show any lack of respect and is even less so a form of racist abuse … I will carry out the suspension with the resignation of someone who hasn't done anything wrong and who feels extremely upset by the events."

It is arguable whether Suárez was deliberately racist, but he certainly has a callous streak that rears its ugly head from time to time. Wherever they are from, footballers should familiarise themselves with any offensive terms in the country they play in and, if in doubt, avoid using them. Culture cannot be used as an excuse.

Suárez is an excellent player and I’m delighted he signed for Liverpool. I’m not sure whether he deserved an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine, but I hope following this and the Fulham incident, that he will learn to keep his behaviour in check in the future. As a Liverpool fan I want to see him making headlines for his goal scoring record and not for his personality defects.

With the news of the convictions in the Stephen Lawrence case this week, I’d love to say that violence and discrimination against ethnic minorities has come to an end. But the truth is that racism is still a massive problem in the UK, even if we do not encounter it ourselves on a daily basis.

Footballers shouldn’t be treated any differently from other people in society and racist comments should always be taken seriously. It needs to be stamped out at an individual, institutional and international level, and those responsible should be made an example of, whoever they are.

I just hope the ever-slippery John Terry doesn’t evade justice over his own allegedly racist comment.

Read more from Joy in the upcoming issue of Sorted magazine - now available from WH Smith!

No comments:

Post a Comment