Luis Suarez’s ban for misconduct involving a comment deemed to be racist has divided opinion across the football world and beyond. There are those such as his countryman Gus Poyet who insist that he is guilty of nothing more than an ignorance of British culture and had he uttered the words in Uruguay it would not have been an issue. The counter is that his ignorance does not detract from the fact that degrading someone because of the colour of their skin is unacceptable, however much crossed wires are blamed.
With an eight match ban in place it was clear that Liverpool FC, who have supported the player throughout, would take exception. Indeed a statement released soon after confirmed an to appeal would be sought and Suarez’s ‘innocence’ protested, this despite the player himself admitting using the term that provoked the complaint. His team mates have taken the line that as they know him well they can confirm he is not racist. No acknowledgment is made of his language being unacceptable, again a clash of cultures is to blame. Suarez is cast as a man who knows no different, in spite of having been resident in liberal minded Holland since 2006 before moving to Merseyside.
The nature of what he said, why he did and the effect of this on footballers, sport and wider society is something to be debated with valid points to be made from all viewpoints. The most unfortunate aspect of the affair has been the reaction of Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool. Not content with lodging an appeal and moving on there was a bizarre and ill judged act of donning t-shirts with the forwards name on prior to the game away at Wigan on Wednesday. Hysterical talk of a ‘witchhunt’ and him being ‘crucified’ have fuelled this particular reaction which has shown a lack of dignity and a reliance on tribal attitudes to convey views rather than a measured response which such a sensitive area requires. Former Manchester United and Aston Villa defender Paul McGrath felt obliged to tweet
“As ex footballer having experienced racist comments throughout my career I was saddened to see Liverpool players wear those t-shirts last nite”
Whereas current Blackburn Rovers striker Jason Roberts hit the nail on the head by touching on theme that “some things are bigger than football.” Dalglish, when talking of the incident said “they will not divide the football club, no matter how hard they try.” It is this insistence that the motive is to destabilise his team rather than root out racism that leaves him and LFC looking one eyed and frankly delusional.