Liverpool are threatening to make themselves into the laughing stock of the Premier League with their failure to admit Luis Suárez is anything but a perfect little angel.Now the club has got to the stage in which their star striker was seen wearing a shirt in support of himself. It’s a curiosity that has come from the club trying to create a siege-mentality like many clubs do but it’s surely too transparent to work.
Liverpool has always been a club that has prided itself on its connection with its own fans. It’s quite an achievement for there still to be some connection between the club and fans in the modern era of football in which investors and marketing partners have replaced the old connection with the club’s true supporters.
Since the return of “King” Kenny Dalglish to Liverpool has been a massive boost for the club since the dark times with the slow decline of Rafael Benítez and then the depressing reign of George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Now with John W. Henry and the resurgent Kenny Dalglish the club seems to have got it’s act together once more to challenge for the league.
Or has it? With the club’s recent reaction to the Patrice Evra / Luis Suárez incident you would be forgiven for thinking the Liverpool Football Club PR department was run by a various assortment of passionate scouse bloggers.
Firstly way before the decision was in, Liverpool completely ignored the FA’s request that both clubs do not comment on the case as it is in motion. This would be to avoid affecting the outcome and causing it to be blown all out of proportion. Liverpool probably did not succeed in the first and certainly have accomplished the second. Surprisingly even Manchester United were able tokeep completely quiet about the entire situation. Sir Alex Ferguson did not comment on it where as Kenny Dalglish could barely contain himself.
Most pathetic of all was Wednesday’s attempt to show solidarity and develop a siege mentality when, in pre-match training, before the 0-0 against Wigan Athletic the entire team (yes, Suárez included) and manager wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suárez as if he had just been handed a lifetime ban – not just 8 games (before appeal). It’s one step away from black armbands and a minute’s silence – all for one player who called another player “negrito”.
Judging from Liverpool’s statements they released after the hearing you would assume Luis Suárez had been given his 8 game ban for being racist. Not so, – yet Liverpool repeatedly state that he isn’t – the FA (via an independent regulatory commission) have though banned him simply for using an insulting word with a reference to Evra’ skin colour.
Some Liverpool fans and, strikingly, the club itself have said there is a lack of evidence that Suárez said anything at all to Patrice Evra in spite of the fact that the player himself admitted to it. The FA and the Independent Regulatory Commission would not do anything had their been no evidence at all – the can of worms that could be opened up by one player’s word being seen as more truthful than the others would not be easy to deal with. Indeed, some Liverpool fans who use the “lack of evidence” defence will quickly tell you that also Evra is alleged to have called Suárez a “South American” in a derogatory way – ignoring the fact that this allegation has even far less evidence than the “negrito” one.
The word “negrito” itself is a funny one – the FA have had to deal with the difference in culture and language when reaching this verdict, probably the main reason for the delay in coming to a decision. Indeed, although it’s unlikely that what Luis Suárez said had any real malicious intend or was a sign of racism is unlikely. Gamesmanship and an ignorance of what is proper to say is much more likely. Although it maybe a slip of his native tongue when speaking to a Frenchman you expect their common language would be English, and this is where the word breaks down into something less savoury.
Regardless of any linguistic arguments the FA are dead right to punish Suárez on using the word even if it is something that is taught in Spanish 101. Referring to someone by his or her race, whether friendly or not (and in a football match, it’s rarely going to be friendly) is not something to be tolerated in football. Liverpool Football Club have to acknowledge this and have some sort of admission on their own player’s part even if it is through gritted teeth – anything else or the sort is bad publicity for the club.
Finally we must point out Liverpool’s attempt to lower the reputation of Patrice Evra from a professional footballer into someone who tries to play the race card in a game of poker – it is simply not true. There indeed have been two previous incidents of possible racial abuse linked to Patrice Evra before, let’s explore them more thoroughly:
First was the incident sometime back in that Patrice Evra refused to take further, in which a deaf fan that using lip-reading skills had apparently seen Steve Finnan racially abuse the left-back. Evra was unaware of any of this and left it as it was – not really someone playing the race card.
The second, and more famous, incident was the confrontation between some of the United coaching staff and Patrice Evra against the some of the Chelsea ground’s staff. Patrice Evra once again did not play the race card here – in the official report of the incident he claimed never to have heard a racial remark. Assistant manager Mike Phelan and goalkeeping coach Richard Hartis put this forward instead.
What Liverpool have insinuated about Patrice Evra is perhaps far worse than the fact that two players had a dispute over a word with some ambiguity in one of the most heated and furious matches in football. The club have shown absolutely no respect to Patrice Evra – seeming to accuse him of something that is simply made up. Liverpool should apologise to the Patrice Evra and give up on their campaign against the great conspiracy and safe face whilst they still can.
It has taken two months for the FA to examine everything and deliver its first verdict but there is no way it is going to end here. First, Luis Suárez is set to appeal, and then the issue could be pushed further and further and it’s very unlikely Luis Suárez will actually serve an 8-match ban. The only loser in this though so far is Liverpool Football Club and not Luis Suárez.