On this Saturday, we finally lost of United. Not on the field but off it too. A fight for which we were ill-prepared and one that took us by surprise. Luis Suarez signed for LFC on 31st January 2011 and was soon to put his mark on the Premier League. The incredulous despise for Liverpool and their players among people who do not follow LFC is so strong that it should not have been a surprise that Luis’s past follies when playing for Ajax or Uruguay were highlighted all over the place. Nothing could have triggered the agenda against him better than his divine performance against the media’s beloved United about six weeks after signing for Liverpool. A team that has lost his star striker, a team that was staring at administration and relegation only a few months ago, a team whose replacement striker wasn’t fit enough and hadn’t yet debuted for his new club, was spurred by the performance of that six week old signing who single handedly destroyed the much fancied opposition at that time. Such was his performance in that game that when United came back to Anfield this season for the league game, a draw was a mental victory for them. What that performance and other performances also meant that coupled with his combustible nature, the threat he posed to opposition and the general bias against Liverpool, Luis Suarez was assured of media bytes in the immediate future. If someone thought that the media’s resultant focus would be on his Man of the Match performances, the stellar role he played in helping his country to be South American Champions, the camaraderie he shared with his colleagues, the effort he was putting in to adapt in England, his love for his new club etc would have been quite naive. In the world of Ronaldos and quite recently the Bales, the opposition fans and the media could only highlight Luis’ dives when there would have been definite contact from opposition before most of the ‘dives’. And then there was the mother of all allegations. He was called a racist by a person who has lied earlier in similar cases but more pertinently, conversed with Luis is Spanish and chose one of the Spanish words that could have been racist in English. Now Suarez is very well branded a racist for life. What happens when he is next having a good game against a home team? Well, we know what their fans’ chants’ focus would be.
Let’s see, of course with the benefit of hindsight, how else could the events have transpired and how the parties could have acted:
Liverpool FC – Kenny Dalglish: Some of us might not agree given how some things have backfired, it is not difficult to see what and why Kenny did and say. If you the head of team or a family and you are absolutely, totally convinced that the member of your clan is innocent, why would you not support him? Why would you not wear the so-called ‘disgusting’ t-shirt to support him? Some of us do not want to see the facts but a little broad-minded approach would tell you that Luis is innocent. For Kenny to support him vocally, and the club to denounce the FA’s verdict so strongly should only increase your belief and love in the club. If I was fortunate enough to be able to pick an employer for myself, LFC would be the one.
Liverpool FC – Management: Then again, there is immense talk about how Kenny was left to fend for Luis alone. Well, since the incident happened on the football pitch and since Kenny is usually the public face of the club, it was only right for him to be the face. As it is, Kenny would be the one speaking to media often given his role as the manager of the football club. The club hierarchy is such that the manager reports to the MD who in turn reports to the owners, so if there was a stronger or a reconciliatory statement required, it could have come from them. Support for Luis was unequivocal given everyone’s belief in his innocence and once it was being misconstrued as support for racism, they abandoned the appeal and just took the bitter pill. I don’t suppose there was an option either way. They could not have not supported Suarez nor could they have gone ahead with the appeal given the campaign against the club. However, there are a few things that could have happened better. If the entire might of FA and Manchester United were prompt at teaching Evra what to say to the commission, a little bit of coherence in Dirk Kuyt’s, Damien Comolli’s, Kenny Daliglish’s and Luis Suarez’s statement could have been helpful. I am also hoping that there was an attempt at conciliation with United and Evra before the hearings happened just to say something like ‘Look mate, I didn’t say what you thought I did since we weren’t conversing in English. However, if there is any part of my speech that offended you, please excuse me’ or something like that. However, the indignation at such an allegation would not be hard to fathom. Nor would the probability that United weren’t receptive of any such conciliation and would have wanted to exploit Luis’ naiveté to the fullest. It is also an unpopular decision when it is time to cut your losses. Not all of us would like how we decided not to appeal or to apologize for the missed handshake but there were bigger repecurscsions. The witch-hunt against him was truly out of control. Everyone who had a tongue was vocal about his opinion about Suarez. It was time to concede defeat in this little battle and to understand that on-field matters like football should be the focus in the business end of the league. The best way Luis can answer his critics is by being instrumental in us getting that all important Champions League place. Business owners wanting to make money from their enterprise and bosses behaving bossily isn’t a huge sin if you ask me.
Media: There’s so much written about Liverpool FC and Luis Suarez in the papers these days and so unashamedly biased that, like one of my friends said, it seems while the reporting is for English football, the fourth estate seems to belong to Iraq.
In the absence of any fuel to fire (till yesterday), they tend to ‘manufacture’ news. The handshake was one event that was manufactured by the media. What should be a routine exercise and should be a total non-issue was talked up into becoming a flare point. First there were talks about Anton Ferdinand and John Terry’s potential handshake before the FA Cup game and then of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry and finally they couldn’t wait to get started about the handshake between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. They couldn’t have waited longer, could they. The were deprived of the opportunity to write about it after the FA Cup draw since Luis was still banned for that game but yes, the build-up to 11th February would mean that they would start talking it up with all their energy and might.
How is a handshake even relevant? What does it signify? That football be played with camaraderie? When every point in Premier League means millions of pounds, every goal means millions of pounds in bonuses and every mistake means millions lost in value and prospective future wages, and then add to that the small matter of the historical rivalry between two clubs that play arguably the biggest game(s) of the season, I’m sure camaraderie is not forefront in everyone’s thoughts. Every club is looking for the little bit of mental advantage. Be it cutting down on away fans’ ticket allocations (it is one thing if the local law and order ask you to do so and quite another if you take that call yourself along with ‘consultants’) or suggesting that one club might spoken too much about an incident or other such trivial acts and talks that would obviously be done to increase the camaraderie? Quite off the matter is that the 1,800 away fans were still louder than 70,000 ‘home’ fans. The handshake is a personal choice in my opinion. Like the law, while you’re not allowed to behave with animosity, there should be no one to force cordiality down your throat. There is violence on the football field, career threatening and indeed ending tackles, stamps on head and hands, goading the referee into sending players off, disgusting comments about one’s family and other physical and verbal abuses that are many-a-times more notable than the act of a handshake or not. The condemnation of a tackle does not, probably, sell as many newspapers than does the handshake that didn’t happen.
In the meantime, the media morons have left no stone unturned to talk about how badly LFC and Kenny Dalglish have handled the situation. How else would LFC act? Not support a man they believe is right? Is that how you would like your employers to behave? For all these journalists, what happens if one of them gets hit by a sexual harassment (a classic case of one’s word against another) suit and their bosses believe the accuser and ruin these journalists’ names, personal lives and careers and brand them as pervs for life. Karma, is a bitch.
Luis Suarez: From Suarez’s point of view, if you truly believe in him like I do and so does Kenny apparently, why would you want to shake hands with someone who lied to get you banned? Not just the ban although that hurts, it also brands him a racist for a much longer period than 8 games, puts his club in a vulnerable position as far as the club’s ambitions are concerned and his own. Excuse him for feeling a little aggrieved. The only thing is that if Kenny and him had a talk about shaking hands and he said he would, I would have liked him to. Glad he has apologized for that and so has the club. Glad because that at least puts a temporary stop to all the vile written against him although I wouldn’t bet on it. Some rags are already on the ‘Luis to be sold this summer’ bandwagon.
LFC Fans: It is easy to find blame somewhere within. Afterall, like all matches lost or drawn, there is always culpability among few who took the field. A fight which we all vehemently supported was lost. Although we cannot do better than believe in the club, manager and the player involved. Luis was innocent and Kenny along with the management was right to support him. The management was finally right to throw in the towel in the stupid irrelevant fight. What could have been done? We’ll just move on from it and the next time we sing YNWA, we’ll just make sure that it is louder that it was last time wherever in the world we sing it from. I am not white and I do not believe Luis is a racist. He is my hero and my five year old’s too and as long as he is wearing the red shirt and giving his best on the field, it would remain to be so. In the meantime, it is good that 26th February isn’t too far away. A win and thus a trophy, should be the perfect antidote.
Unimportant people including Alex Ferguson: For others who have an opinion about whether Luis should play football for LFC or not, here is an incident and I am wondering if the protagonist ever played for his club again or not.
As a legendary musician Mr. Deeemex once mused, ‘Talk is cheap, *** ***’.