The hottest fixture of any sports calendar panned out at Anfield more than a month ago, but revelations from that clash still reverberate around the footballing world till this day. Gerrard’s ice-cool free-kick or Hernandez’s deft equalizer were just two incidents that left supporters applauding their heroes, but the racism controversy plaguing Evra and Suarez have reached a simmering point of divide between fans taking differing sides.
Blatter’s recent ‘handshake’ remarks on racism have only served to brew a storm, exemplifying the precarious nature of such issues, especially when discussed in public domain. Therefore, it is imperative to emphasize that this post seeks to weigh the separate arguments from the both parties (Evra and Suarez), sifting through the timeline of events that unfolded from 15 October onwards, and provide perspectives on the different course of actions that can, and should be taken.
Timeline of events
After the share of the spoils between both sides at Anfield, Evra, in an interview with France’s Canal Plus, claimed: “There are cameras, you can see him. He says a certain word to me at least 10 times. I was very upset. In 2011 you can’t say things like this. He knows what he said, the ref knows it, it will come out. I won’t repeat what he said, but it was a racist word, and he said it more than 10 times. He tried to wind me up. I won’t make a huge deal out of it, but it’s very upsetting and disappointing.”
Suarez, on the back of this allegation took to Facebook and Twitter a few hours later, saying: “I’m upset by the accusations of racism. I can only say that I have always respected and respect everybody. We are all the same. I go to the field with the maximum illusion of a little child who enjoys what he does, not to create conflicts.”
Evra’s accusation last month stemmed from the fact that Suarez abused him with the word ‘n*gger’, although there isn’t any direct quote from Evra to suggest that this was indeed the case. Also, there hasn’t been any video evidence of Suarez mouthing racist abuse at Evra to date.
Then, whilst on international duty with Uruguay, Suarez told the media on 8 November: “ The FA will have to clarify things. There is no evidence I said anything racist to him. I said nothing of the sort. There were two parts of the discussion, one in Spanish, one in English. I did not insult him. It was just a way of expressing myself. I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him, and even they were surprised by his reaction.”
Later on, the British media reported that according to sources from Old Trafford, the racist word was used in Spanish and was a derivative of “negro”.
With Pacheco’s tweet to Barca’s Thiago involving the word ‘negrito’ just two days earlier, the media also speculated that the alleged word Suarez used could have been just that, although to clarify things, this is just pure speculation by the media and Suarez has not specified what he actually said.
On Tuesday evening, Suarez was charged by the FA for using “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Manchester United’s Patrice Evra contrary to FA rules.”
Suarez will plead not guilty to the charge, with Liverpool fully behind their embattled star striker.
If the word used by Suarez was indeed ‘negrito’, then on what basis do the FA have to charge the striker?
Someone without prior knowledge of the word will not be able to fully understand intricate nuances of it, hence misinterpreting what was said. From Suarez’s background, ‘negrito’ is often used as a term of endearment, and the word could have been used by Suarez in an attempt to appease Evra. In the heat of a moment, it is possible that Evra refused to determine exactly what Suarez meant, and instead jumped into conclusions by passing it off as a racist remark.
In this scenario, there is miscommunication, followed by mistranslation, leading to misinterpretation on Evra’s part. In this case, the fault could lie with Evra, or even both parties as Suarez failed to explain himself fully – and neither party should be blamed and the best way forward, in my perspective, would be that the case be dropped.
What if Suarez did not use the word ‘negrito’, instead using another word, which in his perspective, does not constitute racism?
I do think that in this case – both parties must first ascertain what word was used exactly, why Evra felt it constituted racism, whereas why Suarez didn’t. It is also crucial to consider the context used (i.e. in what tone was it expressed in?), and whether the word had different meanings within different cultures.
This looks like a difficult case to continue. If both sides do raise valid points, it seems that it would be just one man’s word against the other – and the case can also be dropped due to an alarming lack of evidence.
In the cases as illustrated above – I fully support Luis Suarez’s efforts to clear his name of any wrongdoing.
However, with the English FA now officially charging Luis Suarez for alleged racism, they have publicly revealed their stand against Suarez. While Suarez is not officially guilty of racism, the FA are making a strong claim that they did indeed believe that Suarez was a racist, and they are now accusing him of the act.
Such claims do have the ability to damage a player’s reputation considering that many people will automatically equate ‘charged’ to ‘guilty’. The FA will not have wanted to tread murky waters and thus, believe that they do have solid proof/evidence that Suarez was indeed, racist.
The pressure is now on the FA to indeed deliver the kind of valid evidence expected of them after such a thorough investigation lasting more than weeks. They must realise the severe repercussions and damage to their organization should it be proven that Suarez wasn’t racist.
However, what if Suarez was indeed being racist?
If that can somehow be proven, with Liverpool’s No.7 unable to further defend himself, then I do feel that Liverpool, together with their fans, need to withdraw their support for Suarez. As much as Suarez is Liverpool’s darling, issues which are larger than football, and perhaps life, delving into societal discrimination must be condemned to its fullest extent.
A hefty fine, together with a prolonged ban (longer than the one he received for biting) need to be dished out to send a signal out to the rest of the footballing community that a zero-tolerance approach is adhered to, with Suarez receiving deserved punishment.
Only then can football’s pledge be fulfilled in its first step to kicking out racism in our game.
Moving on from here, how can football actually tackle the rampant problem of racism? Sending out the first signal won’t instantly change things, so further steps need to be taken to address this issue of racism.
The most sensible thing will be to first determine what is racist behaviour on and off the pitch. Organizations such as FIFA, UEFA and AFC need to strongly collaborate with Football Associations round the globe and come out with a specific set of guidelines which will be applicable. These guidelines can differ from league to league, taking into account the cultural differences existing between various continents.
Also, in light of the recent racism investigation against Chelsea’s John Terry, why is the Police heading the inquiry? Consistency must be questioned – an undoubtedly complicated case is being dealt internally, but a rather straightforward case is handled by the Police? What actually is the rationale behind this, and where is the level of consistency demanded of by professional, and public organizations under the constant scrutiny of the media?
There should be no two ways about it. Yet, it remains my belief that an organization as large as the FA must not shirk responsibility, and instead, lead by example to investigate cases of racism within the country, thus setting an example for other nations.
With everyone as a collective, racism can be tackled head on.
It is imperative that as one society, everyone does its part to eradicate racism, be it in football or otherwise. Only then can we make this world a better place.
Follow me on Twitter – @redsonfire
This post also appeared on my Liverpool blog, The Spion Kop. You can visit it here.