Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Suarez and Evra

In the English Premier League, matches between Liverpool and Manchester United are always testy affairs due to their long-standing rivalry. This past weekend's game had another nasty angle to it due to racism claims on the field. United's black French defender Patrice Evra reported to referee Andre Marriner that he was being repeatedly racially abused by Luis Suarez, Liverpool's Uruguayan forward. He later told French TV station CanalPlus "There are cameras, you can see him (Suarez) say a certain word to me at least 10 times." If you're not sure what that the "certain word" is, it's the one that begins with N that black people are generally not fond of, unless the person saying it is black in which case it's sort of okay. Suarez is a little brownish perhaps, but technically not black, which means he's potentially in hot water as the English FA are conducting an investigation into Evra's claims.

Liverpool, for their part, have completely backed Suarez's claims that he is a lovely person who loves everybody, and have also called for Evra to be punished for making a false allegation should the FA find no proof.

European football is riddled with racism; in some countries on the continent, large sections of the crowd routinely bring banana peels to the game solely to throw at black players (based on the logic that there is some correlation between black people and monkeys). The English league has been one of the more successful at eradicating this kind of rubbish, so the allegations will no doubt be taken seriously.

Evra and Suarez have their own individual baggage that impacts on this furore. Evra has been the alleged target of unproven racist incidents before - which makes it easy for some to dismiss him as someone who was struggling to contain Suarez on the field of play and so played the race card in retribution - although to be fair to Evra, the previous allegations were not made by him personally. For his part, Suarez was sent off in the last World Cup for the most obvious and cynical handball you'll ever see, is continually accused of diving and feigning injury to get other players in trouble, and not so long ago was suspended for biting another player on the shoulder during a game. All of which doesn't mean he's a racist prick - just a prick - but I doubt anyone would be surprised if his list of odious behaviours happened to include racist taunts.

Of course, according to Suarez, he's not a bad guy, just misunderstood, if this amusing statement on his Facebook page is anything to go by:
“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.”
But Liverpool's stance on the matter - that Evra be banned if Suarez is cleared - is ridiculous in what it implies, although that hasn't stopped 'Pool fans enthusiastically embracing it. Unless video replays can conclusively prove what Suarez said, which is unlikely, or unless someone else on the field can credibly verify what Suarez said, then it comes down to one man's word against another's.

Without trying to be hyperbolic, there is a parallel with rape cases here. In an incident in which only the two people involved know what happened and which is difficult to prove, the odds are that the accused is cleared of the charge. But that doesn't mean the incident didn't happen. Obviously making false allegations is very serious, as it potentially leads to an unjust punishment and can ruin someone's reputation even if the charges are found to be baseless. But if we were to punish everyone who made an accusation which could not be proven, it would be an active discouragement for anyone to report the transgression. There is a massive difference between deliberately lying and alleging something that cannot be proven.

There even remains the possibility that neither of them are at fault. Given that English is a second language to both Evra and Suarez, I wouldn't be surprised if it stemmed from a misunderstanding; perhaps Suarez said something in Spanish, or in his Uruguayan-accented poor English, and Evra misheard it as the N-word.

Although Suarez being Suarez, I reckon he's probably guilty. Great player, but he's kind of evil.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't liked Suarez since since his on-the-line handball at the 2010 World Cup against Ghana. It cost Ghana the win and just made me sick to my stomach.

    I agree tho, they shouldn't punish EVra if his claims can't be proven. But I too wouldn't be surprised if Suarez did say something racial - he is obviously willing to go to any lengths to gain the upper hand in a game.