On the whole, it’s tough to take an up-in-arms stance on racism in football, especially after Sepp Blatter’s suggestion that a post-match handshake can repair any bad blood of this kind. Racism in football is an age-old problem that will persist despite well-intended initiatives to purge it from the game. Why? Because racist people, much as they surely love civilized things such as games of chess and literary criticism, love football.
So too, one assumes, does Luis Suarez. And it’s his handling of his predicament, more so than John Terry’s indifference to reality, that really rankles. Witness the silliness of Liverpool’s white-shirted gesture of solidarity with the Uruguayan ahead of their mid-week tie at Wigan. The sight of Suarez wearing one of his own “poor me” t-shirts is more than enough to erase any pity one may have been feeling toward the player.
What’s unfortunate is the way Suarez selfishly allowed Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish to advocate on his behalf. In fairness, neither the club nor King Kenny were going to stand by as serious charges were directed against their star striker, if for no other reason than that Suarez’s sustained absence from the squad dampens their already faint European ambitions. Liverpool’s decision to support Suarez’s rather flimsy defense - he claims that ‘Negro’ and ‘Negrito’ aren’t considered harmful in Uruguayan culture- paints the club in a bad light and puts Dalglish and his reputation in an awkward position.
Put it this way: if you’ve been called something nasty you know when it’s meant in a hurtful way- you can feel it. Similarly, if you’re the one doing the insulting, you know when it’s in the spirit of competition and when it’s meant to be hurtful. That’s where Suarez fits in. He’s alleged to have insulted Evra repeatedly and in a charged manner, which makes all the difference.
In the end, what does it matter? Does anyone really doubt the veracity of the claims against John Terry and Luis Suarez? Remember when Kobe Bryant called an NBA referee a faggot on camera? The Lakers superstar didn’t miss a game. Sure, he received a hefty fine, but nothing of consequence occurred beyond that. There was no mystery. Fans already knew Kobe was a jerk, and that’s the same reason no one’s surprised about John Terry. We already know his story.
Luis Suarez? Sounds like he’s heading down the same road. In either case, it’s safe to say that whatever hurt may have been caused on the field isn’t likely to be repaired by a simple handshake.
What are your thoughts on how Liverpool has handled the Suarez situation? Should Terry lose his captaincy? Let's hear your comments on one of the biggest stories of 2011.