race for the top
following two alleged racist incidents on the pitch,
football is in the spotlight.
purcell cole looks at the two cases.
Racism has hit the headlines of late, with Luis Suarez and John Terry both charged with the offence of using racist terms - Suarez by the FA and Terry by the Metropolitan Police. While Suarez is unhappy with an eight match ban and £40,000 fine, Terry ponders the maximum £2,500 fine he could get for the offence in court if found guilty, with the added tariff of an FA ban when the legal case is concluded.
Neither character is a stranger to controversy.
Terry for sleeping with his team-mates' ex-girlfriend and his brushes with the law, including an assault on a club doorman with two team-mates caught on CCTV, albeit he was cleared of the charge in 2002, when he was also caught on CCTV urinating into a beer glass and dropping it on the dance-floor of an Essex nightclub just before he got thrown out. His behaviour, along with his team-mates, on the day of 9/11 in front of grieving Americans was another example of how he conducts himself in public.
Suarez is noted for his Involvement in the handball that denied Ghana a last minute goal, but got him sent off before the penalty was missed and then he could be seen punching the air after the African side lost a penalty shoot-out to allow Uruguay into the World Cup semi-final. But further to that he bit a player on the pitch in Holland playing for Ajax and in England so far has been charged with racist language and will face another FA charge for sticking his middle digit up to the fans at Fulham.
But the real furore seems to have sprung up over Liverpool's players wearing of t-shirts in support of their team-mate. Tweets have flashed between players within and without the club about the sensibilities of the idea, but, for me, it is an unwelcome move and one that even Chelsea, one of the most nouveau of nouveau-riche clubs with all the new money attributes that brings, have baulked at. Perhaps because it might be deemed contempt of court, as their player faces criminal charges, but for Liverpool, the move is as crass as anything outlined above that the two players have done themselves.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Liverpool were class. They had a few players who roughed things up, but mainly, they were known for their flowing football and had a good reputation throughout the country. But this act seems to have dragged them down to a new level that shows that they are becoming a club that lacks class. Maybe that comes with the fall from grace, where they are now battling to break back into the top six. Maybe it comes from a lack of control at the very top, with American owners, who you would imagine would be conscious of race issues having owned sports clubs in the US. You can understand that they don't want to turn their backs on a colleague, but this move seems to have turned public opinion against them .
But this latest move smacks of the club trying to engender a siege mentality. They might be trying to think that "no-one likes us" and they are going the right way of making sure that happens.
But the biggest worry for the clubs is how long they might be without their star players at a stage in the season when they could least afford to lose them. Liverpool are talking about maybe having to sign a replacement for Suarez in the January transfer window, as he will miss about a sixth of the season (with the Fulham case still to be heard). Chelsea are trailing in fourth place at the time of writing and Liverpool in sixth, putting their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League through league placing in peril. And with that the obvious financial implications of missing out on the big competitions' payout.
With the FA trying to act to reduce the racism in the game, these two cases are high profile and the players involved might feel they are being used as an example, but they are only in the frame because of their own actions.
The fact that the FA got an independent panel to judge the Suarez case shows that they were keen to show that the process was transparent, the only issue against that being the length of time the hearing and decision took after the actual event. But maybe, this will be quicker next time now a case has been processed.
Hate crime carries a higher sentence in the courts and should do so in football as well, so Suarez may have felt hard done by, but this would send a message to others who feel it is OK to abuse people based on the colour of their skin.
following the meeting of manchester united and
liverpool on 11.02.2012, luis suarez played against
patrice evra for
the first time since he was found guilty of abusing the manchester united defender in a match at anfield.
with the matter hoping to be put behind them, the pre-match handshake was marred by suarez's refusal to shake hands with evra.
Luis Suarez in his infinite wisdom
chose not to shake hands with Patrice Evra to put an end to the racist
abuse case between them and in the process leaves a nasty stain on his
club's reputation and the whole of English football.
Let us not forget Suarez's previous. Hand-balling a shot on the goal-line in the World Cup semi-final to prevent a goal and getting sent off, before celebrating after the match that Uruguay won on penalties. Biting an opponent on the shoulder in Holland while playing for Ajax. His diving and his sly approach to the game. You only have to go back five days to his kick into Scott Parker's stomach and the photo that showed him grabbing the same player around the face with his fingers in his eye.
The fact that the Liverpool's players did not point out the error of his ways is not surprising after the T-shirt affair. Their part in the match (apart from putting in an off colour performance) was to stir things up to make it look like it was United and Evra who were the instigators. Like most bullies do.
Perhaps more surprising in this whole shameful saga is the role of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. A man previously regarded as a legend in the game by those in Liverpool and by many outside of that city, but the scales are falling away from the eyes of those outsiders (and a fair amount of Reds fans) with every ill-mannered utterance he spouts.
The siege mentality aspect of the Dalglish approach to Suarez's suspension and the subsequent fall-out makes him look like a small time mind-game player, who has looked at the cards and realises he has a busted flush in his hands. There is no bluff in what he is saying, he appears to genuinely mean everything that comes out of his mouth and when interviewed by Geoff Shreeves of Sky after the match at Old Trafford, he tried to belittle the interviewer by saying he had been severe and bang out of order in suggesting that the bad atmosphere around the game could be lain at Suarez's door.
Claiming he did not see Suarez fail to shake Evra's hand is just not good enough ... especially when you say that after the game when it had kicked off in the tunnel at half-time and at the end of the game on the pitch. If nobody told Dalglish what had happened then there really is a problem at their club. Surely he saw Suarez smash the ball towards the United bench as the ref blew for half-time. Surely he saw the way players were reacting to Suarez.
Dalglish could not miss the opportunity to back his player after the Spurs match the previous Monday when he stated that Suarez should not have been suspended in the first place. His press conferences and interviews are nothing more than "We are innocent and everyone has got it in for us." Fine. If that's the way he sees the world. But to those outside Anfield, it shows the cracks that are appearing as a once proud club falls into the abyss after missing out on Europe this year and after the defeat at Old Trafford, maybe next year too.
And where is the comment from the owners of the club - Fenway Sports - who own baseball team Boston Red Sox and a NASCAR racing team. They were stating on their website in a headline that "Luis Suarez Shows Strength Of Character, Scores In The Face Of Adversity". Hardly a trace of reality in that wording and it avoids the reason for any "adversity" he was under. There must be a number of fans of the clubs that Fenway own who might interpret their silence on the mater as condoning what has gone on and especially in the US, I would have thought that would lead to a tarnishing of the "brand" at the very least. Not to mention the on-field damage it is doing to their "investment".
An interesting aspect of the game as the teams lined up just before the hand-shake was that Steven Gerrard had walked out with their mascot, who happened to be a young Asian girl. Coincidence that she was a mascot for this game perhaps, but what will she think of one of the players who purport to have respect for each other, when one of her own heroes shows the basest disrespect for another player. We all saw the faces of the Liverpool fans prior to the Tottenham match who were wearing Suarez masks and a number of them were of ethnic backgrounds. I don't quite get that.
Or the fact that copies of the Red Issue Man U fanzine which were confiscated before the game as they featured a Klu Klux Klan mask on the front with LFC emblazoned on it. This was supposedly because it inflamed racial hatred and with the fact that it was hitting at racism, I do not see how it could do what was claimed. Was Suarez's decision not to shake hands with Evra not doing the same. He might not have wanted to shake his hand because he didn't like him, but with what had gone before, the impression that could have been given was that he didn't want to shake the hand of a black man ... even though he went on to try with Ferdinand and briefly did with other United players.
I know My Eyes Have Seen The Glory had some Police attention for racist material when Sol Campbell first returned to Tottenham having left for Arsenal. There was nothing in the fanzine that was racist and the Police realised that we were against racism and that we promoted the Kick It Out campaign.
So Suarez issues a statement apologising for not shaking hands. After the event. After the stinking atmosphere he created. After the abuse that he has not apologised for.
He is not recalcitrant and is only seeking to save his career at the club that he is dragging through the gutter.
So, why am I so outraged by all this, when he plays for Liverpool and the player he abused was playing for Manchester United. "It has nothing to do with Spurs", I hear you say.
But it does.
How would we like one of our player to have been in Evra's position. It may have happened a few years back at White Hart Lane when a prominent player was sent off following an incident with one of our black players.
Alex Ferguson is right, Suarez's actions could have caused a riot, so why is no action being taken against him and if it happened at Tottenham, we have seem riots already in the last 12 months, so we don't want that again.
But the other reason I am concerned about all this is that it COULD have happened at THFC.
We were interested in buying Suarez until Liverpool stepped in with a £22 million bid for him and he wanted to go there.
It was a lucky escape for Spurs and we have a greedy player and Newcastle United to thank for him ending up at Anfield. With all the luggage he carries with him ... good player or not ... I am glad he is someone else's problem.
Ayre's statement seemed to blame Suarez for misleading the management in that they believed him when he said he was going to shake Evra's hand. They were disappointed by his actions and have made it clear to him what is expected in future.
Dalglish apologised for his behaviour at the post-match interview, but still claimed not to have known that Suarez had not shaken hands and has still not apologised for his behaviour in recent weeks since the incident happened. He claimed that the spat with Shreeves was not befitting a Liverpool manager and I would have thought that some of the rubbish he has come out with in the preceding weeks needs to be addressed too.
The fact that Chief Exec, manager and player all issued statements of apology on the same day indicates to me that perhaps Fenway Sports have made sure that some retro-salvage of reputations has gone on to save face.
If it draws a line under the affair, then at least the two teams don't meet again this season.
But in 2012-13, it may all come to a boil again.
So, apologies seemingly accepted, the affair looks set to be put to bed, but only after what seems to be an intervention by the Liverpool owners and the sponsor of the club's shirts - Standard Charter bank ... much of whose custom is in the Far East.
But it is interesting that the blame seems to being heaped on Suarez (quite rightly) by Dalglish and the Chief Executive, but why should Dalglish now be so surprised that the Uruguayan lied to him and that his belief of what he was told (about the handshake) that prompted such a robust defence of his player brought an apology, but that the initial incident with Evra has not brought an apology.
All through Dalglish's assertion that Suarez should not have been punished for telling the truth has not felt right.
If someone admitted killing someone, that doesn't make them innocent.
Now that he has experienced what being on the end of Suarez's words are like, he doesn't like it.
What Liverpool's punishment of the player will be could be a end to all this if they sell him in the summer, as a few papers suggest.
Back to homepage