A Liverpool and England defender attends a media obligation to promote kids stickers, sounds harmless enough doesn’t it? Well I’ve no doubt that Glen Johnson’s interview in the mail today will prove to be one of the most controversial of the season as the former West Ham Chelsea and Portsmouth man, has decided to give his take on the whole Luis Suarez -Patrice Evra affair- just when it seemed it was finally dying down.
Johnson starts by addressing Suarez’s failure to shake Evra’s hand at Old Trafford, an event that caused the Uruguayan to apologise with the following statement:
“I have spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong.
“I’ve not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.
“I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions.
“I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”
Yet for some reason Johnson feels Suarez was actually the victim of some form of ruse by Evra, despite his team-mates apology, the Mail notes: ‘Evra was clever at Old Trafford,’ said Johnson, extending his hand directly towards me. ‘Because – I’m not being funny – but if I wanted to shake your hand I would stick it right out in front of me like that. But if my hand is down here, almost by my side, then it’s because I really don’t want to shake your hand.”
‘Luis didn’t shake his hand because Evra’s hand was down there. What else is Luis supposed to do? Would you go to shake someone’s hand if their hand is way down there by their side? Course not. But then, because Luis didn’t do it, Evra has pulled him back by his arm as he walked on, as if to say to everybody: “Look, I wanted to shake his hand and he didn’t…”
‘He’s following Luis with his eyes as if to say: “Right he’s gone, he’s gone (past me) so I’ll pull him back now…” Evra probably stayed up all night thinking about how to do that. The whole thing was ridiculous.’
This is arguably the strangest statement regarding the whole affair, the idea that Evra ‘stayed up all night thinking how to do that’ before the biggest game of the season. Its a genuinely bizarre claim to make, unless of course Johnson was merely being a tad facetious and maybe using a bit of a metaphor, if he is then that seems a rather risky time to do it as surely he realised this interview is going to cause fireworks.
I’ve no doubt Johnson if asked would clam he didn’t mean Evra literally stayed up throughout the night thinking about the handshake, but these sort of things can come back to haunt you, look at how Liverpool fans jumped on the ‘he said it ten times’ statement Evra made to French television.
The interview then turns to the subject of Paul McGrath:
Former United defender Paul McGrath took to Twitter on seeing Johnson join his team-mates in wearing T-shirts in support of Suarez as they warmed up before a game at Wigan.
‘If I was in Glen Johnson’s position, I would have thrown the shirt to the floor,’ said McGrath.
‘It’s only an issue because I am the only black lad in the club,’ he shrugged. ‘If it’s bad that the other lads supported Luis then that should be seen as just as bad as me supporting him. But people are on to me because I am black.
‘The McGrath thing … that’s actually racist. Saying what he said is racist. He is only saying that to me because I was the only black lad wearing the T-shirt. He’s targeting me because of my colour.
Believe it or not I do have a little bit of sympathy with Johnson on the whole ‘being singled out as the only black man’ issue as i thought at the time, the entire team and manager behaved poorly and should be judged collectively, Johnson being black is irrelevant, however McGrath was addressing the issue from a black man’s point of view so naturally saw it through Johnson’s eyes.
Johnson adds: I haven’t spoken to Paul McGrath about it. I don’t care what he thinks, really. I don’t know anything about him. But for someone to say that, it sums them up. It’s their problem.
This merely seems like a small dig at McGrath and begs the question if Johnson doesn’t care what he thinks why even address what he said?
On the t-shirt issue Johnson continues:
‘The evidence was Luis’s word against Evra’s,’ argued Johnson. ‘I’m not saying Evra is lying but it’s his word against Luis’s, isn’t it? So how did it all turn out to be so strong in Evra’s favour? I work with the lad every day. There is no way he said that.
‘With the media these days and the way it was going to be blown up, maybe the T-shirts thing wasn’t the right thing to do. How should I say this? We wore them to show our support for Luis. It wasn’t to send a message to everyone else. It was just for him.
‘It seemed to come across that we were making a point. We weren’t. It was the club’s idea. But obviously we all agreed. We didn’t really think about how people would react.’
Liverpool were recently criticised for their handling of the Suarez-Evra affair by a group of black leaders, the Independent reported:
“Gloria Hyatt, who leads the group, said: “Liverpool FC has presided over the worst incident of racism in football seen in recent years. Their misguided handling of the … saga has let down all of those in the city who work hard to challenge racism and to make Liverpool a better place to live for everyone.”
Lee Jasper, the activist who was equality adviser to the Ken Livingstone during his time as Mayor of London, said: “The club, including the owners, the players and the manager need to realise the enormous damage caused by their reluctance and obdurate behaviour. Kenny Dalglish used to manage Celtic. He ought to know the importance of stamping out bigotry. The club failed the city, the nation as a whole, and Britain’s black communities. Their abysmal lack of leadership on these issues has given a green light to racism. They must make urgent reparations … and a clear and unequivocal apology.”
The club has maintained a ‘Suarez is innocent’ stance both before and after the FA’s decision, not just with the t-shirt affair but with club statements and a personal statement from Luis Suarez which denied any wrongdoing, and which Kenny Daglish labelled as ‘brilliant.’
Johnson also tackles the actual incident between Evra and Suarez where during a heated argument the Liverpool striker called United’s skipper ‘negro.’:
‘I can’t understand how people don’t get that in his culture the word “negro” or “negrito” is genuinely normal. Just because he’s out of his country he is not going to stop using his mother tongue. If we went to another country, we would use our slang, wouldn’t we? I can’t see why somebody can get in trouble for using his culture in another country.”
I’m the same colour as Johnson and understand fully that different people have differing opinions on what they’re prepared to be called, some of my black friends for example will call each other the N-word yet they will never call it me as regardless of whether they’re black or not I find it offensive and don’t allow black people to call me something I wouldn’t allow my white friends to.
If a South American started at my work and began calling me ‘Negro’ I’d simply point out that I didn’t like it and ask him to call me by my name, but that’s my personal choice, if Johnson doesn’t mind being called that, just like some of my friends don’t then that’s fair enough. The point is Evra did take offence and was called it during an argument, also Evra isn’t a friend or team-mate of Luis Suarez so it isn’t the same as Suarez calling Johnson by that name at all.
The idea of using your culture in another country being acceptable is extremely naive, after all can gay men openly kiss in some Arab countries? No. Is that wrong? Yes. Should they be allowed? Of course they should. So should they do it when they visit? Not unless they’re willing to face the consequences. You simply cannot expect to use words, or act in a certain way in different countries and for that to be accepted. It’s often a shame but those are the hard facts.
Why Johnson has chosen to re-ignite the whole Suarez affair is a bit of a mystery, although he may have felt more anger over the issue due to being singled out as the only black Liverpool first team player- which the Mail also brings up during the article.
Johnson has received a lot of criticism from some members of the black community and this could be his way of dealing with it. I sympathise with Johnson in as much he doesn’t deserve special treatment for being the only non-white in the Anfield dressing room and some of the stick he’s received especially from Marcel Garvey who labelled him an ‘Uncle Tom’ was a disgrace. Johnson doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment, but he’s been terribly misguided in contradicting the club’s recent stance on the Suarez handshake affair and even more misguided in reopening old wounds.
Towards the end of the interview Johnson notes: ‘People are now singing, week in week out, that Liverpool are a racist club,’ he sighed. ‘Well, no. We are not. We have had one incident concerning racism that we believe isn’t true. So how can people think like that? “
I’m guessing that Johnson doesn’t consider the Tom Adeyemi or the monkey-gesture man to be racists incidents concerning the club- yet for many they are linked to Liverpool’s handling of the Evra affair.
The FA could well look at this interview and decide that Johnson has needlessly brought up a case that was pretty much closed and stirred up trouble where there was already plenty to go round, and he could face some form of reprimand. The thing with the FA is you simply never know what they’re going to do, I wouldn’t be surprised if they banned him, nor would I if they didn’t even acknowledge his interview such is the nature of their inconsistency.
The saddest part of this whole interview is that now more tribalism and United v Liverpool fan reactions will come to the forefront, many Liverpool fans and sites have been quick to praise Johnson while sites like this one feel it was a massive mistake.
Let the arguments begin….again.
Johnson’s interview: Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2111767/Glen-Johnson-Patrice-Evra-clear-didnt-want-shake-Luis-Suarezs-hand.html#ixzz1oTvxeyB5
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