So, Suarez has been banned for eight games? ‘Ban him for life!’, ‘Is that all?’, ‘Justice!’ are just some of the immediate and emotional reactions that I’ve heard from United fans. Some Liverpool fans are, understandably, trying to defend their player. Let’s, not one of us, pretend we wouldn’t feel the same in their shoes. If Rooney, for example, had done the same wouldn’t you try arguing his case? I’m not condoning certain fans’ willingness to defend any and all actions but something as sensitive as this, with cultural differences involved, isn’t as clear cut as some of us would like to believe.
Suarez, when playing in the sky blue jersey of Uruguay, plays alongside Maxi Pereira, who is known as “El Mono” or, in English, “the monkey”. This is difficult to hear and understand as an English speaking Brit but, back in Uruguay, this is deemed as an almost affectionate nickname. This is where context has to be brought into the discussion.
In England, the UK as a whole, there are certain words or phrases that are deemed unacceptable for obvious reasons. There are certain racial slurs that have been eradicated from most football grounds, limited only to the absolute minorities in their little dingy corners of little dingy pubs where ‘men are men’. Again, this is where the notion of context comes into it. We associate these slurs as racist because that’s what our culture dictates (rightfully so, before anyone starts slating me!) We imagine those who utter them as bald headed, tattooed thugs. The words are bad. They’re bad.
However, when the Premier League is so racially and culturally mixed as it is there are problems just waiting to happen and, quite frankly, I’m amazed that it’s taken this long before an issue has arisen. I have to qualify, before I go on, that Suarez needed to be banned regardless of cultural differences. However, can we put some perspective on this?
Where does racism, or xenophobia even, begin or end? Is abusing or taunting another player due to the colour of his skin the same as, say, Rooney (hypothetically) winding up Giggs because he’s Welsh? What about Irish jokes? Mocking someone’s southern accent? As a Welshman I have taken, and enjoyed, much banter about my accent but another friend of mine finds it truly offensive for a non-Welshman to mock his heritage.
I recognise that being a Welshman isn’t a ‘race’ issue. It’s a national thing. However, the same nerves feel touched by some people.
I’ll say again, Suarez should be banned and made an example of. However, the apparent witch hunt that is ongoing on social networking sites sits as uncomfortably with me as do Suarez’s comments. Are United fans more pleased that ‘justice’ has been done or that a Liverpool player has been banned. I would be more than surprised if we would have the same reaction if it were one of Norwich’s strikers? I sincerely doubt it yet expect a torrent of abuse now.
Let’s not forget (hell, the Liverpool FC statement won’t let us!) that Evra, himself, said that “I don’t think that Luis Suarez is racist.” This is more an opportunity to highlight cultural differences in our league and to educate players about the responsibilities that come with playing in the English Premier League. Suarez hasn’t been charged with being racist. He’s used racist language in ignorance. It is not defendable but, for the love of God, can the arguments between United and Liverpool fans stop?
Liverpool fans claiming that it’s all set up to help United or that Liverpool are being picked on leaves me incredulous. However, equally shocking are the United fans who appear to be celebrating this outcome. Is this really a time to celebrate? To mock? I think not. Let Suarez serve his time, learn his lesson, and for football to learn too.
The FA has made huge steps to erradicating racism in football and will continue to do so. This suspension will help them no end but they must esure that consistency is applied.
From a football fan’s point of view, not a United fan’s, the FA must be incredibly consistent now and find themselves in an awkward position. A position they’ve backed themselves into. If they’re going to charge Suarez, whose accuser says he’s not racist, with an eight game ban then John Terry must be quaking in his boots! He hasn’t the cultural airbag that Suarez had/has. If found guilty then England’s captain must get, at least, an eight game ban. Whether he is allowed to captain his country again must come under scrutiny. Whether he can play for England again would surely be in doubt. It’s context again. Suarez, can hide behind ignorance only. Terry would have no defence.