By Darren Rudham
Or so the saying goes. Otman Bakkal might be inclined to agree.
After his six-game ban for biting the PSV Eindhoven midfielder in November of 2010, almost exactly one year later, it is an alleged biting remark (or 10 of them according to Manchester United’s French fullback, Patrice Evra) that has landed Luis Suarez in hot water.
But Evra has been bitten once before, too. The FA took a reported £15,000 chunk out of his wallet and issued him a four-match ban after a phantom claim (and the ensuing altercation) that a Chelsea FC groundsman, Sam Bethell, had aimed racial epithets at him was dismissed.
There is zero place for racism in the game, but you have to wonder why it seems to be Patrice Evra that is continually the subject of racially charged comments. Perhaps we should be enervated that his previous experience with leveling uncorroborated charges (and punches) has not made him shy in trying to out racism.
Granted, Suarez is not the model of footballing citizenship either. His pitbull impression at Ajax and perhaps the most famous hand ball in World Cup history outside of Diego Maradona’s “hand of God” assures his name in the annals of infamy. It would be foolish to think that this doesn’t play into the fact that the FA decided to go ahead with proceedings.
It seems that the FA’s one-month deliberation has hinged on whether or not the alleged term in question, “negrito,” was intended offensively and not in the context of “pal” or “mate” as it often is in his native Uruguay.
The Guardian has claimed that the fact some handbags were involved in the lead up aren’t helping Suarez’s case, but should that bear any more weight than the fact Evra has been embroiled in similar situations before already? Either way, it seems that the FA has the “categorical evidence” they need to lumber the Liverpool striker with the weighty offenses.
The fact that Evra’s team mates didn’t come rushing to his aid suggests when the alleged slurs were being bandied about they either had no idea what was being said due to language or cultural differences or they had no reason to believe that it was worthy of their more tender mercies.
This would lend credence to Suarez’s claims that “even they were surprised by his reaction” to whatever he allegedly said. However, it should be interesting to see just how “surprised” they were when they are called in to give evidence. There’s a pretty good chance that they will have seen Suarez with a rifle in the vicinity of a grassy knoll in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
What is vexing though is that in this same claim, Suarez is effectively admitting that he said something – whether or not it was racially charged.
It doesn’t look like this is going to go quietly into the good night as now the Uruguayan embassy is using whatever weight it can bring to bear in refuting the Frenchman’s claims against Liverpool’s Number Seven.
With the FA all but agreeing with the claim by laying the charge, Reds fans have every reason to fear that this witch hunt will end on a fiery stake. And Kenny may have overplayed his “they’re-out-to-get-us” card. Man U fans, on the other hand, have the security of Sir Alex Ferguson’s stamp of approval – or disapproval – on it and as whatever he says seems to go in the EPL.
Does this amount to more of the sabre rattling we’ve come to expect from the FA – especially when it is a high profile case? As a smoking gun has yet to be publicly produced (and probably won’t be), this is very much a “he said” scenario. But a decision either way can be damning for both involved and more so to Liverpool’s reputation as they have been more vocal in their support of their beleaguered front man. With this being the most controversial issue in English football right now, it might’ve been easier for all involved had Suarez simply bitten Evra.
No matter how this plays out, it appears that there is no amicable solution to the situation and someone will be pulling splinters for a significant amount of time. In either scenario, they are going to cut a lone figure in the world of English professional football. Ok, so maybe not as lonely as John Terry.