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.

40 Responses to “Lost in Translation? Suarez and Racism”

  1. argybargy17

    This article fails to realise that this decision by the FA does not recognise the ignorance of British norms by new arrivals to this country. Whatever happened to toleration and fair play!?
    Sure, Suarez should be punished for uttering racist comments but to not take into account the mitigating circumstances is against natural justice.

    The stupid and unsophisticated FA have opened a horrible bag of worms by this decision which could go on a direction they do not intend !

    Silly overreaction ( but this is the FA!!)

  2. @argybargy17 As stated in the article, he has been in Europe since 2006, in a country with more liberal laws than here. He has therefore had plenty of time to accept European norms and cultural situations. The tacit support given to Suarez smacks of a corporate cover up, an attempt to not see a brand go toxic. LFC should hang their collective heads in shame; they have attempted to save face globally but have created a situation they cannot control.

  3. RonnieHughes

    I have proudly supported Liverpool all of my life. As a tiny boy, I was taken to Billy Liddell’s testimonial match. And come the mid-sixties, would regularly turn up in the paddock to watch my heroes, Roger Hunt, Ian St John and all, beat virtually everyone. But this is the first time, in all these years, that I have ever been ashamed of the club, and particularly, its manager. It is a complex issue, and Kenny just doesn’t get it. No decent manager does this ‘bunker’ thing, where they join in with ‘the lads’ and stick two fingers up to everyone else. If strong representations are to be made to the FA, they are done with dignity, not with T-shirts. And the player himself should be taken aside and warned strongly and formally not to do it again. Because, on balance, and even if not meant that way, to most people, it does actually look like racism.

    Sometimes, never walking alone means recognising we walk with everyone. On behalf of liverpool Football Club, my club, if no one else will say it, I’m sorry.

  4. David Yates

    any bets on martin being a liverpool fan?
    Good article. and I suspect the reaction of liverpool and dalglish would have been different if it was a player they wanted rid of.

  5. Martin Quirk

    Yes, I am David, and yesterday I would have found it very interesting. By now it’s just rehashed variations of the same misguided moralising. If Dalglish backs him, then so will every Red. I have infinitely more faith in KD than I do the FA.

  6. Kevin Shawkin

    the whole incident is most regrettable and there is no reason or sense in using solidarity to prove a point on such a personal issue affecting two individuals, having visited many fantastic countries (not enough thus far!) there is an argument to suppose cultural differences influences perception but ultimately tolerance and understanding is the stabilizing factor, in my opinion.lets hope the game and society will be more receptive and sensitive as a result of this and other recent such like issues.

  7. Sevenstreets

    I think the story now has moved on from Suarez’s words to the closed-ranks reactions of LFC with a bafflingly ill-conceived reaction that looks to the world like they believe that’s it’s ok to come out with racist insults as long as it’s done by one of your own men (RB)

  8. Martin Quirk

    The ‘closed-ranks reaction’ or commendable demonstration of support and solidarity for your employee and colleague (of mixed race) because you strongly believe him to be innocent (which includes all of the black players in the squad), depending how you choose to perceive the blindingly obvious, makes me proud to be a Red.

  9. Mike Donnelly

    Hypothetical question – if Ronaldo when he was at Man U called Babel a negrito and whiskey nose wore a t shirt with the Ronaldo’s grid on it, would we truly have admired his support for his player or would we have thought it a tad classless? I’m a red by the way but a slightly embarrassed one at the moment.

  10. Martin Quirk

    You’d have to add quite alot more relevant detail to your hypothesis in order to make it remotely comparable, Mike. For instance, Has C.Ronaldo had the charge of racism hanging over him for two months? … Has his name become synonymous with the term ‘racist insults’ throughout the national media? What does ‘negrito’ mean in Portuguese? Does the word carry any pejorative sense in Portugal? … How well does Ryan babel speak Portugese in order to understand and translate the idiom correctly? These would be just some of the main relevant areas for you to focus on but once all the circumstances have been evened out, then such minor yet relevant issues as; how long had Ronaldo been living and working in the UK at the time of the incident? Then, of course, there is the quite obviously pedantic issue of why would someone refer to someone who is exactly the same height as themselves as ‘little’ or ‘small’. If all relevant factors in both cases were absolutely equal then I wouldn’t have a problem with Ferguson’s reaction and I’d be likely to leave my high horse in the stable where it belongs.

  11. Martin Quirk

    Other information which should alsio be included: Did anyone else hear Ronaldo insult Babel? Did any of the scores of HD TV cameras pick anything up that could be used as evidence? Does Ronaldo have any history of insulting black players during his career to date? Does Babel have any previous history of falsely playing the race card? Does Babel believe Ronaldo to be a racist? … I’m not completely heartless, Mike, I’ll give you until after the new year to complete your hypothesis, but I’d like it on my desk at 9am on Jan 3rd 2012 😉

  12. Mike Donnelly

    Bloody hell – might have to apply for an extension on that deadline, failing that I’ll get me mum to write a note. Still don’t think this has been handled at all well by the club but cheers for the considered response

  13. Martin Quirk

    Yes, it tells you that Sevenstreets likes to make sweeping generalisations based on as little investigation and consideration as possible. My opinion on the racism issue has nothing to do with being a Red and everything to do with assessing ALL of the relevant information available at this present time. That opinion might change when further details are released along with the written explanation of how the FA managed to end up at their decision. But in the meantime, I’ll just stick with the facts that are known tempered by a healthy scepticism towards all forms of ‘authority’ and particularly the FA’s administrative and political machinations.

  14. Sevenstreets

    The consideration that went into the article was a long discussion on email between half a dozen people of different backgrounds and views – and quite a few LFC fans who felt doubtful about the verdict but completely embarrassed by the way their club had dealt with the matter. The finer points of the dispute over what was said have been blown out of the water by the shirts at the game the other night and Dalglish’s implication that his club is being persecuted – which has set up a bizarre them-versus-us narrative – is either highly cynical gamesmanship or he’s delusional. (RB)

  15. Martin Quirk

    Hmm … says you. Why not publish these emails? They sound far more interesting and would seem to represent a far more balanced assessment of the subject than the article which allegedly resulted from them.

  16. Martin Quirk

    Since when has it been somehow wrong to criticise and take issue with a writer’s opinion in a rational, considered and respectful way? Isn’t interaction the entire point of having and using a social networking account? What is your problem with that and what has going ‘beyond the pale’ got to do with being criticised for having a biased, over-simplified and unbalanced view of a sensitive and complicated subject? The real issue in this subject is not racism, in my opinion, but knee-jerkery.

  17. Sevenstreets

    If LFC had quietly appealed; asked for the evidence and pointed out the mitigating circumstances there’d be no complaint from me.

    But no matter what the provocation, no matter what the mitigating circumstances, the heavy punishment or the FA shenanigans – none of them are the key issue here- you have a football club lionising a man who has admitted using another man’s skin colour as the basis for an insult. In fact lionising him for receiving a punishment for doing just that. It’s a fairly clear message: he did nothing wrong.

    Pointing out the absurdity and distastefulness of that behaviour is not misguided moralising – a generic rant about Suarez and racism and football would have been. And any sniffing superior ‘what a tedious article’ stuff isn’t the sort of feedback people who publish articles tend to be seeking.

    As it is the article points out that the city’s premier football club is squirming around trying to excuse bad behaviour and sending out a message that there is no zero tolerance on racism in football and that, contrary to what Jason Roberts tweeted, nothing is bigger than football.

  18. Martin Quirk

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but that is just a ridiculous statement and one which brings everything that you have stated based upon it crashing down around your ears.

    First rule of journalism; do your research thoroughly and get the facts right.

    It is completely absurd to suggest that Luis Suarez ‘admitted using another man’s skin colour as the basis for an insult’, when he ‘admitted’ to no such thing.

    What would be the point of the drawn out FA inquiry if Suarez had effectively pleaded guilty to the charge?

    The fact of the matter is that Suarez (a man of mixed racial heritage) vehemently denies racially abusing Evra. Suarez’ employers and colleagues (included those of black and mixed racial heritage) are standing staunchly and admirably by his side in the face of ignorance (such as yours) and widespread criticism, because they strongly believe him to completely innocent of any wrong-doing.

    Justice and Truth are far bigger than football too. The article is precisely how I referred to it; ‘misguided moralising’. Knee-jerkery.

  19. Martin Quirk

    Suarez has said (I suppose you’d say ‘admitted’) that he used either the word ‘negrito’, which in all Spanish-speaking South American countries means nothing more sinister than ‘my little black friend’. Or he used the word ‘negro’, which is a descriptive word, meaning ‘black’ and not a pejorative one. He has been deemed ‘guilty’ of the charge solely upon the say so of Patrice Evra and upon no other evidence whatsoever. A ridiculous precedent has been set. The FA have fucked up royally, again, but they’ll be laughed out of any court in Europe should LFC or Luis Suarez seek to take the matter further.

  20. Sevenstreets

    I’ve yet to find anyone who isn’t a Red who’s prepared to believe this ‘negrito versus negro’ thing. But, as I said, this isn’t really about the fine point of what may or may not have been said anymore; it’s about the club’s public reaction – as I said above. As the article says it’s just become a tribal ‘them v us’ thing now that diminishes the issue at hand

  21. Mark Jonson

    “for someone who I presume has ambitions in journalism and writing”. Some stunning patronising, there. This whole discussion is making me want to cave my own face in – SevenStreets, please don’t post any more football stuff because it brings out the bellend in everyone and makes us all look bad. The city’s got enough incredible things to talk about without having to resort to covering football, though I understand why it was posted.

  22. Sevenstreets

    Martin – at the risk of repeating myself and the article for the Nth time – it’s not about the absurd minutae of what may or may nor have happened at the time. It’s about your club’s crass response. That you still haven’t grasped this after what I’m sure has been a long and tedious exchange for everyone is frankly depressing – and a good example of what happens when tribal club politics override a spot of common sense. As for some of our other comments we all do very well out of journalism as it goes – we run sevenstreets in our spare time because, most of the time, we enjoy it. Play the ball, not the man eh? (RB)

  23. Change Suarez for Evra. Change Negrito for Hillsborough. Change Suarez ignorance charge for Evra “I didnt know it was that bad a thing to say.”

    Watch results.

    The myopic, appalling, woe-is-me ignorant response of Liverpool’s fans, and the club, is a disgrace to the game. It’s like condoning the Black and White Minstrel show from the 70s because “we didn’t really think there was a problem.” Racism is racism is racism. Idiot one-eyed fans are idiot one-eyed fans are…

  24. Dicky Sam

    You haven’t read the report – obviously. I suggest you do before pontificating like this.

    No-one at the club is excusing racism, nor are they swerving the issue.

    Read the report and tell me you think Suarez is a racist.

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