This blog hasn’t been update for a while and this isn’t about Detroit sports, but fuck it, I feel like gathering my thoughts on the extreme mess that has been the Luis Suarez case, and where better to do that than here? I’ve been tweeting angrily about this time after time and have engaged in several heated discussions on Twitter. But it’s hard to put together a coherent set of thoughts on a case like this on Twitter, so I’m going to present by argument and what I mean about certain issues here, in long form.
Some of you might be new to the case, others might be privy to most of the details, I’ve read extensively on the subject, including the official report on the case from FA, which I suggest everyone who is interested in this case reads, just to see how ridiculous the conclusion is. To those who know a lot about the case, sorry for starting with some background info and such, but to get my point across, I feel like I need to go through the case from the bottom and up.
Lastly, before I start this for real, I want to state that racism is not okay. It’s a big problem, it’s despicable and I don’t condone or support it in any shape or form. Neither does, to my knowledge, the majority of Liverpool fans or Liverpool FC.
Let’s start by looking at the two main actors in this case. We’ll start with Luis Suarez. Luis Suarez is a 25-year old soccer striker from Uruguay. He is also, which is an important point in this case, a quarter black, he had a black grandfather. Suarez struggled a bit with partying and bad work ethic in his early teens, but reeled himself in and became one of the biggest talents in soccer. At the age of 19 he transfered to the Dutch club Groeningen and the next year he took a step up, being sold to Amsterdam’s Ajax. In his early years in Holland he struggled a bit with some bad tackles and temper taking too many yellow cards, being sent off once and once getting into an altercation with a teammate over who was supposed to take a free kick. He also showed a lot of talent and in 2009 he was named team captain. However he ended his time in the club on a ridiculously dumb and ugly note by biting an opponent in the shoulder in late 2010 (yes, you read that right, fucking idiotic thing to do). When his suspension for this had ended, he had been sold to Liverpool FC. Suarez also plays for the Uruguayan National team, where has found great success, but also a spot of controversy after a late handball to save a goal in the 2010 World Cup, however, anyone with a half a brain can see that this was a reflex, not a premeditated attempt attempt at cheating. However his comments after the game that “everyone would have done the same” were dumb and badly worded.
It’s clear that while talented, Luis Suarez is a hot head and he can be a bit of an idiot at times, however he was the captain of an Ajax team with many black players and was very well liked there, no teammate there has ever criticized him. The same goes for the Uruguayan National team, which is famous for having been the first with black players and which is still a team with many black players. In fact, the entire nation of Uruguay has supported him in this case and he’s seen as likely to be their next National team captain. It should also be noted that Suarez long before this case has been heavily involved in anti-racism work.
His career in Liverpool started well, but aside from the case itself, which I will get to soon, I promise, he’s had a couple of problems. First of all he’s been prone to falling too easily while tackled, attempting to draw fouls, however he’s gotten better and better in this regard and today that’s mostly absent from the game. The other problem was a middle finger to Fulham supporters who heckled him about this case. He seems to be very well liked by his teammates.
Patrice Evra is a French left defender who plays for Manchester United. His career has seen a few unflattering incidents, and a weird drunken video, but we’ll focus on a couple of things that say a bit about the kind of player Evra is. First of all there is the case of the 2010 World Cup. Evra was the captain of the French team and lead them in a mutiny against their own coaches, ending in scandal so bad that French ministers came home from vacation to have crisis meetings. This lead to Evra being suspended from his national team for several games. Secondly, while Evra, contrary to popular belief, has not brought up racism cases himself before, people close to him have twice accused actors associated with other teams in the Premier League of racism and both cases ended without a conviction. In one of these cases Evra was cited by the FA for being an unreliable witness who exaggerated greatly.
Back in October of 2011 Liverpool and Manchester United played a 1-1 draw at Liverpool’s Anfield. During the game, Suarez and Evra were up against each other a lot and at one point they ended up in a confrontation that the referee broke in to. Suarez then seems to pat Evra on the head in some sort of reconciliation, which Evra did not react well too and the ref had to break in again. After the game, Evra and his manager Alex Ferguson went to the referee’s dressing room to report that Suarez had racially abused Evra. Suarez denied the accusations of racism and it wasn’t any video footage that showed his lips well enough to do lip-reading and there were no witnesses that had heard what was said. Still, the FA, after a long period of consideration, decided to charge Suarez and after a hearing with an independent panel (which, considering one of the three members is one of the heads of Manchester United and another claims to have saved Alex Ferguson’s career in the 80s, is a goldmine for conspiracy theories, but let’s stick to the more cut and dried parts of the case here) Suarez was suspended for 8 games. On New Years Eve (tactical release point?) the report about the case came and despite earlier promises to fight the case and despite maintaining Suarez’ innocence, Liverpool decided to not appeal the suspension.
The independent panel found Suarez guilty based on believing Evra’s testimony that Suarez had told him that he doesn’t “talk to black people (negros)” and that he kicked him “because you are black” and that when Evra challenged him to use the word one more time and he’d hit him, Suarez alledgedly replied by saying “negro, negro, negro, negro”. The whole conversation happened in Spanish by the way. The panel presented some reasons why they found Evra’s version to be trustworthy and here they are in all their idiotic form:
- Suarez admitted to having used the word “negro”, which is Spanish for black. However, he only admits to having said it once and claims he used it in a friendly way. I know, for us from Europe and North America, that sounds ridiculous, but the linguists the panel used in the case said that if what Suarez claims he said (Something like “relax negro” or “why negro”, with negro here meaning “pal”) was what was said, it could very well be said as a friendly/calming thing. Uruguayans in general and several linguistics experts have agreed with this. The word “negro” is often used as a term of endearment in South America. However, the panel thought the discussion was too heated for anything calming to have been said and dismissed this. However, looking at the video, it seems like Suarez was trying to calm it all down, which caused a bad reaction from Evra.
- Dirk Kuyt told the FA what Suarez had told him he had said after the game. His version and Suarez’ version were not identical word for word. Ummm, yeah, Suarez isn’t good in English, so his version was translated to English by an interpreter. However, he is fluent in Dutch, so he likely translated what he said to Dutch in his head when telling it to Kuyt, who, you guessed it, is Dutch, Kuyt then likely translated it to English for the panel. Are we really surprised their accounts weren’t word for word the same?
- Patrice Evra’s account was consistent and well presented and was consistent with the video images. Suarez’ seemed nervous and his account was not totally consistent with the video images. To this I ask? Why should Evra be nervous? Suarez was the one facing suspension and his reputation being tarnished. Evra is also way more comfortable with English than Suarez, who used and interpreter. Furthermore, aren’t lies one has practiced often easier to get consistent than what you get while trying to recall events truthfully. Last of all, the FA coached Evra since he was “their witness” and he was able to watch the video of the events before and during his statement to the panel. Suarez was not able to.
These were the main reasons they believed Evra and as I have pointed out, I don’t find either to be very convincing. There are also a few arguments to be made the other way. Things the panel did not adress.
Arguments for Suarez’ account
- First of all, Evra’s history of untruthfulness should be a warning bell here. However, since it wasn’t brought up in the case (a failure on Liverpool’s part to not bring this up), they only considered his trustworthyness based on this case. Which is just… wow… “The court knows that the witness has a history of lies and exaggerating, but seeing as the defense fucked up and didn’t bring it up, probably cause they assumed we already knew, which we did, we only considered his answers in this case and he seemed like a trustworthy enough fella up there.” (not an actual quote).
- Secondly, Evra went on French TV a couple of days after the incident and claimed he’d been called “a ‘n*gger’ more than 10 times.” He also claims he told the ref that Suarez called him a “n*gger” several times. The ref did not hear this. Later he would degrade this, as you see above to 5-6 times and the word used, suddenly became “negro” in his accusations after Suarez admitted to have used that word. So the guy can’t even get his story straight and they still believed him.
- Evra claimed that Suarez said he kicked him “because you are black”, or “Porque tu eres negro”. This is very correct Spanish like you’d learn in school, and like the very language-mighty Evra, who likes to learn the languages of foreign teammates (which is why he adressed Suarez in Spanish, which they both knew), would have learnt. However, several language experts, including those the panel used, have pointed out that no one in Latin America, and certainly not in Uruguay would have phrased the sentence like that. They say it’s highly unlikely that an Uruguayan would use that sentence as it stands.
Based on this, the rest of the report, and obviously and inclination to believe my own guy over Evra, I think that Suarez is the one telling the truth, and in the aftermath, which we’ll get to, he’s the one that has acted like he told the truth. So I, truly and honestly, believe Suarez to be innocent here and Evra to be a liar, and so does the majority of Liverpool’s fans, their coaches and the team, including his teammates.
Even if you’re not as convinced as I am, there is a second point to be made: Yes, a panel like this doesn’t require the same “proof of being guilty beyond concievable doubt” as the court of law, however, as they themselves pointed out in the report on this it should require pretty heavy proof. After all, we’re talking not only a long suspension, but also branding someone forever as a racist. The only “proof” in this case was Evra’s statement. It’s a word against word case, which in and of itself should not be enough to convict someone like this and with such flimsy arguments for Evra’s account being true and several arguments to be made against it, I found it absolutely baffling that they suspended Suarez. I, and others supporting Suarez, also suspect that this was a statement suspension to show the International football federations FIFA and UEFA that the FA takes racism more seriously than they do, after having been criticized before for not taking it seriously enough.
It should also be mentioned that FA independent panels have a conviction rate of more than 99 percent, compared to 75-80 percent in the British court system. That doesn’t speak very well for their fairness.
If I was to preside over the case, I would have given the pair matching suspensions of 1 or 2 games (Evra admitted to verbally abusing Suarez too, but was not punished) for something like “hurting the game’s reputation”.
The aftermath in the press
The press jumped all over this case, not reporting the arguments for Suarez, but rather going at him like a savage bunch. Some will say dislike of Scousers and LFC are behind it (and believe me, English people in general do NOT like Scousers), but I think it’s more likely that there was one angle that would sell papers here and they went with it sensationalising the case to high heavens, attacking Suarez, attacking the club and its fans for supporting it etc. Most likely, this media pressure was what made Liverpool, who immediately after the suspension went out in all out attack mode against the FA and the panel and looked like they’d fight it through any instance they could, back off and ultimately not appeal (in addition to appeals to the FA in such cases actually not being able to change the verdict itself, only the sentencing of punishment and the fact that bringing it further than that would have been very complicated). The media has quite frankly conducted a with hunt.
It is interesting to compare this case to that of Chelsea captain and English national team player (and Captain until last week) John Terry who was caught on camera calling Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand a “fucking black cunt”. The FA, aside from stripping him of his captaincy of the National team until the case is resolved, has not gotten to the case yet, which is fair seeing as a fan decided to report it to the police and Terry is going to stand trial in the case (with a maximum punishment of a petty fine) right after this summers Euros. While I don’t want to judge anyone as guilty before they are sentenced, the fact this was caught on camera and Terry’s flimsy defense (he claims that seeing as he was obscured before and after the words “Fucking black cunt”, the camera missed that he really said “I didn’t call you a fucking black cunt.”) I find the case against him much stronger than the one against Suarez. However, one is an English national, the other is South American, and media has seen that. Suarez is mercilessly being slaughtered and alternate viewpoints are less than present in the debate. When it comes to Terry, most pieces are about “how he bravely soldiers on in the face of racism accusations.”
We also saw several anti-racism heads and the head of the Players organization PFA go out against Suarez and LFC for supporting him, clearly without understanding that LFC thought he was innocent and accepting the judgment without reading the case. Interestingly enough one of the two anti-racism spokespeople is a member of the board of the Manchester United charity foundation. The other has the same role with Chelsea, but hasn’t mentioned the Terry case at all. Witchunt.
The aftermath at Anfield
Liverpool fans were again slaughtered on Twitter and in the media as racists for their support for Suarez after booing Evra every time he touched the ball in a Liverpool 2-1 win over Manchester United at Anfield in the FA cup in January (Suarez was still suspended). Apparently, by booing him, and saying mean things about him on Twitter, like calling him a filthy liar, we condone racism. This is as far from the truth as possible. Okay, if you read this and think Suarez is guilty, try to wrap your head around this: We truly and honestly believe he is innocent. We truly believe Evra lied. It doesn’t matter if Evra is black, white, purple or orange (okay, if he looked like a cast member of Jersey Shore we might have hated him even more). We hate him because we think he is a liar and a cheater. We also hate him because he captains Manchester United. Race has nothing to do with it and opposing fans and the media are showing a shocking lack of understanding for branding us racists for supporting a player we believe is innocent and booing a guy who a) we believed lied to hurt our team and our player and b) it’s the Captain of Manchester United, which is pretty much a booable offense anyway.
This weekend’s game at Old Trafford
This Saturday, the teams met again at Old Trafford, in Manchester. This was Suarez second game after his suspension and his first from start and a lot of media built up the meeting of him and Evra and their pregame handshake as an important event. A few weeks ago, FA decided to skip handshakes between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers based on the Terry case to avoid incidents, but seeing as time was served in this case, they most likely imagined it as a “let’s put this to rest”-moment. And in the days leading up to the game every report said that both players were set on shaking hands with each other, which would have calmed the case down, though I think the media still would have found something to pick on. That would have been nice.
However, that did not happen. Suarez seemed to ignore Evra going straight to the next player, which lead Evra to grab his arm before being pushed away by Liverpool goalie Pepe Reina. However alternate angles (like the video below) brought up theories that Evra might have snubbed Suarez. To me, it looks like Evra hestitates, and that he could have shaken Suarez’ hand had his hand been at the same height as it was for other players, but Suarez stared staight ahead to Man U goalie De Gea, so I think he had little intention of shaking Evra’s hand. And to me, it doesn’t matter.
Yes, I know a handshake would have put this to death which would have been nice as all hell. Yes, I know some people will say it was the sporty thing to do. But again, try to imagine that I am right, the LFC fans are right, that Suarez is innocent. Would you have shaken the hand of someone who deliberately lied to get you suspended, put your career in trouble and tarnish your reputation for the whole world to see? I know I wouldn’t. Hell, if I met Patrice Evra today, I wouldn’t shake the scumbags hand even if you paid me for it. A handshake would have been nice, but I understand Suarez completely. I also think it supports his innocence, seeing as if he was guilty, he would just want the case gone, not to keep fighting it.
I actually found Evra’s actions in the handshake line worse. Suarez just ignored him. Evra reacted with a display of aggression like he wanted to start a fight.
There were other incidents in the game, that went largely unreported or at least did not get the same attention, such as Evra trying to deliver a malicious, injury-causing tackle on Suarez (video above), but luckily his own player got in the way and they collided. At half time there was an apparent altercation in the player’s tunnel, apparently started by Evra. It didn’t lead to something the ref would card and he told the FA not to take further action and we don’t know what happened, but the theory is that Evra said something to Suarez in an attempt to provoke him and some LFC players got between them. The worst one was after the game when Patrice Evra decided to jump up and down and celebrate all over the field and then deliberately right in the face of Suarez (video below), which Suarez to his credit ignored and the ref managed to stop Evra before other LFC players could get to him. Again Evra acted in a manner meant to provoke and it could easily have lead to a fight (there were reports of LFC’s Daniel Agger and Rio Ferdinand almost coming to blows in the player’s tunnel). And to me, his behaviour the whole game stroke me as smug. Not like a victim, but like someone who knows he and his club has beaten Liverpool in this case. A guy who managed to pull off a lie and make the rival club and a rival player pay.
Aftermath of all this
From Liverpool’s side, Kenny Dalglish, the manager was slightly defiant and largely unaware of the handshake incident when interviewed after the game, but after a media storm of fury against Suarez and Dalglish, they both apologized (though the apologized seemed very forced) and the club apologized too. Media still made a storm though and several talking heads, including PFA’s leader, went out and more or less called for Suarez’ head and called him a shame for Liverpool (so did Alex Ferguson, but we’ll get to that later). There were some sensible voices though, including former Manchester United player Gary Neville (a guy who has publicly stated several times that he despises both Liverpool the team and the city) saying that “if you don’t like the guy, don’t shake his hand”, Man City striker Mario Balotelli who said that if someone made up something to get him suspended for 8 games, he wouldn’t wanna shake his hand either, and former Liverpool midfielder John Barnes, a guy who endured more racism and has worked so hard and gained a ton of ground against racism and for black players in England, who said a handshake would just be fakery anyway (he has generally been supportive of his old club and Suarez in all this).
Liverpool’s mishandling of all this
In this case, Liverpool, in my opinion, had two options. The smart one would likely have been to immediately go out and say something along the lines of “Luis Suarez claims that he did not say the things he is accused of, however he admits to having used a word that is common as a friendly term in his home country, but not acceptable here and understand that it can have been misunderstood as racist. He apologizes if it upset Evra and will accept his punishment for this and has learnt that he cannot use that word on an English football field.” By laying down flat and focusing on the cultural confusion part of the case, LFC would not have been a target for the media and even for Suarez the case could have gone away fairly quitely, with likely something like a 2 game suspension. It would be going against what they believed to be right and unfair to Suarez, but likely would have brought the best results both for the club, its reputation and Suarez.
The other way is what I’d call the “right” way or the brave way. It’s the one I’d have preferred. Liverpool should have said “to hell with the FA, to hell with the media, we believe our guy is innocent and this is a miscarriage of justice and we’ll fight it all the way.” In their statement after the suspension was announced it seemed like this was the way they would go. The statement was defiant and the next day the players all warmed up in t-shirts with Suarez’ face on it (guess if they got trouble from the media over that one) to support him. I thought they’d appeal and if that didn’t work they’d take it to the courts of law and do anything to clear Luis Suarez’ reputation. Instead they buckled to the pressure of the media and didn’t appeal, even though they stated that they still believed him to be innocent.
This is the third way, neither laying down, nor fighting it. The same happened this Sunday. After first having seemed defiant about Suarez’ right to skip the handshake, everyone apologized (in a very forced manner). Most likely they felt the pressure from their main sponsor Standard Chartered and from the club’s American owners (Fenway Sports Group). This was to me, very weak.
All in all the leadership and the PR handling of the club has been atrocious in this. The club might need someone to come in and take over the PR part and also to make decisions for the club in times like this and Fenway and the club need to get on the same wavelength, so they don’t get caught in the middle like this. And I’d like Fenway to grow a fucking pair of balls. I like them, they have many good ideas, but they should have continued to let the club fight this.
However, even the times they tried to fight this, the club were clumsy. They didn’t argue the right points with the Independent panel, clearly didn’t coach their witnesses and Suarez well in how to face such a panel and the media handling itself was clumsy and inconsistent. Liverpool is too big a club to fail like that.
Just one more point now and I’m done.
The hypocrisy of “Sir” Alex Ferguson
Manchester United’s manager Alex Ferguson called Suarez as disgrace for Liverpool after the game. He said he could have incited fan violence (of which there was none) and that Suarez should never again play a game for Liverpool if the club had any honour. The media has largely allowed those comments to stand without looking into the hypocrisy behind them. This is enraging. He plays like he has a moral high ground, while in fact the opposite might be true. An uncredited LFC fan made this picture:
If you wonder what that picture is all about, let me enlighten you:
- In January 2005 (1 min into the vid), Man U striker Eric Cantona was sent off for a bad tackle and on the way off the field a fan yelled at him, which lead to him kung fu kicking the fan. His statement on the matter afterwards? “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” He got 120 hours of community service and was banned for the rest of the season. But he got to play two more seasons for Man U. In 2011 he admitted that the attack felt good and that he was happy for fans to treasure it.
- In September 1997, Man U midfielder and Captain Roy Keane was involved in a duel with Man City’s Norwegian defender Alf-Inge Haaland. Nothing dirty happened, but Keane went to the ground and Haaland criticized him for faking. However Keane was actually hurt and lost almost a year. In April 2001, Keane fouled Haaland at the knee in a brutal tackle that effectively ended Haaland’s career (both situations can be seen above). He got a 3 games suspension. A couple of years later he admitted to doing it on purpose as revenge in his autobiography and got another 5 games of suspension. He captained United after both these events.
- In 2003 Man U defender Rio Ferdinand was suspended 9 months for missing a drug test. He has also been in a sex tape with other national team players and a few girls, been banned from driving 4 times due to drunk driving and speeding and in 2007 he called a radio personality “a faggott” (to his credit, he immediately apologized). He also did not shake Suarez’ hand in reaction to Suarez not shaking Evra’s. He still plays for the club.
- Last year long time Manchester winger Ryan Giggs was revealed to have been having an affair with Welsh topless model Imogen Thomas as well as an affair for 8 years with his brothers wife. YES, you fucking read that right. He still plays for the club.
- A few years ago Wayne Rooney, the club’s striker was revealed to be cheating on his young, lovely wife with prostitutes, including some of grandma-age.
And after all this, he thinks he has the high ground over a missed handshake and the press goes along with this? Shameful.
In any case, I think Suarez is innocent. But the club has now layed down, and I think they thus have to continue to do so and get this case out of the world. Contrary to media reports, team insiders who aren’t part of the sensationalistic press have reported that Suarez wants to play for Liverpool for at least 3 more years to prove people wrong, so hopefully his football can do the talking.
Man United won this debacle, both in the media and in the panel (though on the field, there’s been a win for each (both 2-1) and a tie). They have beaten us in every way in this case, despite being in the wrong/liars, but Liverpool has no way of getting it back now. Instead, hopefully the team can clinch the 4th spot (and a Champions League spot) and win the two cups they are in (they’re in the final already in one of them), so that even though Man U ends over them on the table, both teams get into the Champions League and we get 2 trophies to their 0 this year.
Sorry this was so long, and I know no one is reading this, so heeeeeeey, but I needed to get all my thoughts out here.
You’ll never walk alone.