In DepthColumnsWhy Luiz Suarez deserves to see Red


Posted on Thursday, 22 December 2011 18:14

Why Luiz Suarez deserves to see Red

William Manful

The English FA has finally decided on the race row between Luis Suarez of Liverpool and Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra by finding the former guilty of a misconduct charge and has thereby proceeded to impose an eight match ban on the player as well as a fine of 40,000 pounds.

The English FA's decision to sanction Luis Suarez is so far proving to be a source of polemic discourse with his supporters/Photo/ReutersThe FA's decision is so far proving to be a source of polemic discourse with supporters of the player and the Liverpool Football Club lamenting the basis for the charges by arguing that it is a case of one man's word against another. In fact chief amongst the riposte to the FA's ruling is the notion that, there is still no empirical proof that Suarez indeed directed racist remarks at Evra. Unlike the pending case against Mr. John Terry who is also under examination for similar offences there is no video evidence to incriminate the Liverpool player even though Suarez himself in interviews has admitted using the controversial term that landed him in trouble.

The multifaceted scope of the issue has attracted interest from certain quarters that have even interceded on behalf of the striker by basing their arguments on cultural relativism and arguing that the central word of discord 'negrito' has benign connotations in Suarez' native Uruguay concluding that it is equally discriminatory to chastise a person for engaging in an act that is treated as normal and acceptable in his native country.

As meritorious as these views may appear to be they still fail to address the facts fundamental to the case, which is that Luis Suarez used a word that  is unacceptable and rather offensive to the cultural sensibilities of the English speaking world. Suarez' ability to get away with racially offensive language in his native country does not excuse the malfeasance inherent to his behavior in the United clash.

Luis Suarez used a word that  is unacceptable and rather offensive to the cultural sensibilities of the English speaking world

As an international player who has plied his trade in other European countries such as Holland which hosts a big population of Surinamese with African heritage he ought to know better and realize that beyond the scope of the Spanish speaking world the word 'negro or negrito' is imbued with insults and lexical morass. To argue that, he had no knowledge of how the word is received in an Anglophone setting is to also imply that an international player of his caliber is ignorant of cultural norms beyond his native Uruguay which is equally reprehensible.

Furthermore, the propensity to use the racially inclusive background of the player's country of origin as a basis for exoneration is as bad as a striker missing an open net from the six yard area. Lest we forget, the FA did not punish Mr. Suarez for being racist but rather for using a racist slur against a player who was obviously deeply aggrieved and denigrated by his comments. It is indeed convenient for Suarez sympathizers to ignore how the word made Evra feel by insisting that the player did not mean to be offensive.

Besides, a Liverpool- Manchester Untied clash being one of the most hotly contested derbies in the world of football, how could Mr. Suarez use a word like 'negrito' in such a competitive match with the intention of being cordial? To excuse Suarez' conduct and ignore Evra's plea for redress is to condone racially offensive behavior by treating such matters with some level of triviality that  would certainly form the basis for similar comportment in future matches not only in England but around the world.

By adequately punishing the player however, the English FA is firstly setting an example by showing how such issues ought to be handled and sending out a strong message that racism has no place in English Football. Hopefully, other countries around the world will take note and adopt similar measures when there are similar occurrences in their leagues.

A fact file of Luis Suarez will show that the player since 2010 has been guilty of unsavory acts that have only lowered his reputation as a footballer; starting with the odious handball incident against Ghana in the World Cup quarter finals. He went on to bite a PSV player in Holland prior to his high profile move to England then came the middle finger incident to Fulham supporters.

His brilliant contemporaries such as the peerless Messi and even the skipper of Uruguay Diego Forlan who is a veteran of the game are yet to be associated with any of these offenses.

As a gifted international footballer Mr. Luis Suarez must realise that he communicates with people the world over who seek inspiration not only from his prowess on the pitch but may potentially emulate his comportment as well.

It would be highly inappropriate for the next Uruguayan striker evolving on the streets of Montevideo to mature as a footballer thinking and believing that it is ok to address an opponent of African origin as a 'negro or negrito'. Maybe an eight match ban is just what Mr. Suarez needs to reflect on his conduct as a player and to comeback gracefully as a reformed man making the headlines for only the right reasons.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 December 2011 18:35

William Manful

William Manful

William Manful is a human rights advocate committed to the democratization of Africa. He has worked as a contributing columnist for afrik- and talkafrique. He holds degrees in french and spanish as well as international relations from the University of Cambridge. Mr manful also writes on philosophy, sports and cinema. He is currently working for the Government of Ghana.


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