Football,  Racism

Open Suarez thread

So as we’re not polluting other discussions, say what you want to say about Suarez-Evra here. And whilst we’re all tribal to varying degrees, let’s try to keep it civil and raitonal.

I’ll get the ball rolling using some random comments I left in another thread:

On Suarez’s continued pleas of innocence and Liverpool’s subsequent and consequent defence of their player and the opprobrium this has attracted:
It’s good to know that decisions of FA commissions are unimpeachable. Someone tell Joey Barton. And Neil Warnock. Obviously, the decisions of UEFA commissions are immediately open to question, which is why the FA itself availed itself of an appeal over the suspension of England’s prized asset a few months back, thus freeing him to play in the last group match in Euro 2012.

Barton was sent off, appealed but had his suspension upheld despite most dispassionate observers believing he is not guilty of the charge laid. Which is why he and his manager are now indignant and suggesting the finding of the FA commission in this was flat-out wrong.

Point being, people do this all the time i.e. protest their innocence, which is what Suarez and LFC are doing now. And, for some reason, being castigated for it. It seems if the allegation involves racial abuse, you should just suck it up like a man and not complain, even if you think you are innocent, because, you see, that looks really baaaad and implies you are soft on the offence of which you stand accused. Which is nice.

Evidential consistency:
Patrice Evra’s initial claim against Suarez was that he’d called him a “n***er” more than ten times. This was then reproted to the referee as 5 times by Ferguson, then Evara changed his accusation to one of Suarez using “negro”. Given Evra is well-versed enough in Spanish to be able to recount a favourite Spanish idiom: “Concha de tu hermana”, it’s quite surprisingly that he was confused by “negro”. The relevant extract from the report:

272. It seemed to us that Mr Evra’s understanding of the Spanish word “negro” was influenced by his knowledge of Italian. In his interview with the FA on 20 October, Mr Evra said that he thought “nero” meant “black”, whereas “negro” meant “******”. This was what he thought from his knowledge of Italian, and he went away to check the position in Spanish. However, he did say in that same interview that it was still unacceptable to be told that you had been kicked because you were black. The expert witnesses told us that the Spanish word “negro” cannot simply be translated as “******”.

So to believe Evra, you have to accept that someone who throughout the dispute with Suarez managed to converse in perfect Spanish, including initiating the entire confrontation withh ““Concha de tu hermana”, somehow didn’t know that Spanish “negro” meant ‘black’ and confused this with “nero” which isn’t in fact Spanish at all but Italian.

Whether this is credible or not is not really the point. The issue is that Evra’s testimony is likewise inconsistent in places, but where it is so the commission are ready to accept any explanation for such. For Suarez, denied the opportunity to review video when first submitting to the commission (unlike Evra who was afforded this luxury), inconsistencies that might very well be the natural consequence of not having perfect recall of events 2 months prior are used to incriminate him.

FWIW, I’m inclined to believe that Evra probably misheard Suarez and initially believed he had been called a “n**ger” (although his explanation of how he came to this misunderstanding is fanciful). His reaction at the time suggest as much. I’m also inclined to believe that had Evra heard and understood correctly, we’d never have heard anymore about this dispute. As it is, he and half the Man Utd team descended on the referee’s dressing room claiming Suarez called Evra a “n**ger” multiple times. By the time Evra realised that he had got this wrong, the wheels of (in)justice were already in motion and it was too late.

It ought to be pointed out that whatever inconsistencies there are in the Suarez account, he – naiively it would seem – immediately conceded he had used the word “negro” once and he’s stayed true to that story throughout. He never once sought to deny this even though to do so would have left the FA with nothing to work with. And whilst not conclusive, the fact that Suarez immediately and without equivocation admitted as much does at least suggest that his conscience was clear.

But more than this, a wekaness in evidence offered by the defendant is not in itself evidence to support the charge of which he stands accused. To meet the required standard of proof, there’s need to be evidence that Suarez said what he is alleged to have said the 7 times he is alleged to have said it. Any inconsistency in Suarez’s account, whether you choose to be inluenced by this or not, is not evidence that sustains such a charge. (I might point out that the commission have actually settled on a number of uses of “negro” that doesn’t even match any of the different numbers alleged by Evra/Ferguson. That would be a neat trick at the best of times, but to pull it off without a scintilla of corroborative evidence – no video, no witnesses, nothing other than the word of the accuser (who seemingly doesn’t agree it was 7 times) – is worthy of Derren Brown.) Or in other words, it does not axiomatically follow that doubt about the evidence of one witness means you have to accept in its entirety – and without any corroboraiton – the evidence of another. If Suarez’s defence had been that he was asking Evra out on a date it would totally destroy his credibility, but this does not translate as evidence he did something claimed by another party. The evidence for Suarez saying what he is alleaged to have said and how many times he said it is unaltered. That evidence remains the word of the plaintiff and nothing more.

The Suarez defence:
I keep reading, and not just in blogs but in so-called ‘serious’ newspapers, that the Suarez defence is that it’s “okay to insult someone using colour in Uruguay”. This is simply wrong. His defence is that he didn’t do this, whatever interpretation others have put on his words and deeds. Anyone can disbelieve him if they want to, but no-one other than he gets to decide the basis on which he is defending himself. This is basic stuff, but the output of people like Martin Samuel and other tired old hacks hints at otherwise.

Comolli and linguistics and context:
What Comolli claims Suarez said to him isn’t even Spanish. It gets very interesting here. See this.

The commission used the fact that Comolli’s evidence differed to Suarez’s against Suarez. Of course, what they should have done is dismissed what is clearly flawed evidence from Comolli. Suarez cannot have said what Comolli remebered him as saying given what Comolli remembers is not even Spanish. This is a subtle point, but not that subtle.

The claim against Suarez is that he cannot have used “negro” innocently as he was in the middle of a dispute with Evra at the time, and therefore the insulting rather than neutral form of the word must be inferred. Suarez claims he used “negro” once at the beginning of the dispute before full-blooded acrimony set in. There is also an additional cultural difference the commission, fatally, missed.

It is perfectly possible in Montevideo to be having a dispute with someone, to say something insulting followed by “negro” and for the reference to colour to play no part in the insult itself (disclaimer, I am not a linguistic expert, but I know man who is). For example, if you were to say, ‘La concha tu madre, negro!’, the ‘negro’ is nothing more than a descirptive noun and plays no part in the insult. If you were to say ‘La puta que te pario, negro de mierda’, then we’re in the different ballpark completely and “negro” is very much part of the insult and racially so.

This is not going to be easily understood by a Brit who sees the word “negro” and winces and the FA commission clealry did not understand it, which is why the critical factor for them in determining whether Suarez’s use of ‘negro’ was intentionally insulting is if it was used during the course of a dispute. As above and as Suarez would know, this should not be the determining factor at all. Again, this is not to say that it is impossible to use “negro” as a term of insult in SA, just that it is not automatically so just because it is used in the middle of a argument.

What should have happened:
I admit I’m a Liverpool fan, but there is no way I would be excuse-making for Suarez if I thoguht for one second he had been racist or was a racist. I’d want him out. That said, Suarez did use the term “negro”. Given that, I actually have no problem with a judgment that makes it clear such usage is not permitted in the EPL whatever the motivation or context. Suarez should have been given a 2 or even 4 match ban to make this point, with the commission making it clear that they accept Suarez is neither racist nor had any racist intent.

See here for a legal opinion which gets as close to summarising my view of this affair as anything else I’ve read.

Why LFC are pissed off:
In addition to what LFC believe was a clearly flawed and unbalanced process, the FA have meted out a punishment that goes way beyond the normally applicable sanction and in doing so -and despite saying in the report that they accept Suarez is not racist – conveyed a sense that Suarez’s crime is not only racial in motive but also a transgression of the most egregious kind. Their rationale was the insistence – despite not a scintilla of corroborating evidence – that Suarez used the term provocatively 7 times.

In short, Suarez is smeared as a racist and will be judged as such at every ground he visits. It is *this* that Dalglish and LFC are incensed about and not only is it perfectly reasonable to expect them to defend their player in the wake of such character assassination, I would say they are obliged to do so. The suggestion from some quarters that there is anything reprehensible about this is frankly absurd.

It’s the firm belief of LFC that on the back of the spat with Blatter and continued resentment at our World Cup bid embarrassment, the FA wanted to make an example of someone and instead of waiting for that someone to come along they’ve gone to town on a naive foreigner who, whatever his crime, doesn’t deserve what he’s getting now and will surely come in the future.

Why no appeal?:
LFC could not appeal the decision, only the sanction. And even before they announced their decision not to appeal the sanction, they were bieng informed in no uncertain terms by anyone with as press badge that to do so would be really baaaad and imply they were soft on racism.

It’s a neat trick: create an environment in which any appeal will be seem as grotesque and an insult to victims of race crime, etc., etc., and then when no appeal is forthcoming use that as evidence that Suarez and LFC accept the guilt. QED.

The scum media:
The Suarez-Evra affair was a dispute between men of differet colour in which a descriptive noun beginning with “n” was used. For many, that meant ‘case closed’ and no way on God’s green earth were any of the moral cowards in Fleet Street going to raise their head above the parapet to posit there might be some cultural or other nuance that maybe, just maybe, suggested things weren’t quite as, ahem, black and white as they may have first seemed. To do so, in the current climate, would take courage and principles…stand still at the back Martin Samuel and co.

The “damage to Liverpool’s global brand”:
You have to wonder if any of the fleet street hacks have picked up a South American paper recently. Or one in Europe, for that matter. In Latin America, Liverpool are receiving criticism, but not in the way fat bastard Martin Samuel et al would have us believe. The consensus there is that Liverpool have done the dirty on Suarez by not appealing such an unfair judgment. In Europe, there is a storng belief that the FA’s stance has more to do with embarrassing Blatter and a determination to be taking moral high-ground on race at all costs – including a cost to justice – and far less about a principled stand against racism itself. As KD said, “wrong place, wrong time”.

Last year, the most technically advanced and financially robust tender for the 2018 World Cup received 2 votes from Fifa’s executive committee. It’s perfctly true that this is in part because the Fifa executive committee is a confedaracy of crooks, but it’s equally true that the English FA has a near global perception problem as suffering from an incurable superiority complex that itself flirts with bigotry and prejudice against those jonny(foreigner)-come-latelys now playing the game that WE invented.

So whilst it may be true to say – for reasons given above – that the UK media consensus is that Liverpool have erred, the projected claim that this is a view shared by a few thousand million others from Uruguay to Uzbekistan is yet further evidence of the supreme arrogance for which we are famed.

Or, ‘damge to the LFC global brand’ my arse, if you prefer.