Luis Suarez revealed earlier this month that he was ready to leave Liverpool FC. Rather than being honest to the fans and explaining that, justifiably, he wants to join a better club who can compete for the Champions League every year, he has blamed his decision on the country.
Suarez has been regularly criticised in the media after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, biting Branislav Ivanovic (the second time in his career that he has bitten someone on the pitch), sticking his finger up at the crowd and diving. Any normal person could see that if a player had done these things and not been criticised, something would be very wrong.
“Ever since I arrived I have felt bad, they have never judged me for my play but with the attitude that he dives, protests, makes gestures, racism… everything,” he told television show RR Gol.
His biggest complaint was the difference in treatment between John Terry and himself when they were both found guilty of racially abusing an opponent, accusing this country of discriminating against him because he wasn’t English.
“Without any proof they gave me an eight-match ban, but with Terry, where they had proof, lip-readers, they gave him four. I’m South American and I think that’s the root of all of this,” he claimed.
The problem with what Suarez has said here is that they did have proof. Their proof was Suarez’s own testimony. Whilst John Terry was caught on camera shouting “fucking black cunt” at Anton Ferdinand, he came up with the laughable excuse that he was asking Ferdinand whether he had accused him of calling him a “fucking black cunt” at the time the camera was on him. However ridiculous this explanation is does not change that it couldn’t be proven beyond reasonable doubt in court. Despite the chief magistrate giving his opinion that Terry’s defence was “unlikely”, there wasn’t enough evidence to disprove Terry’s silly story.
In the case of Suarez, they didn’t need lip readers to tell them what Suarez said to Evra because he told them himselves.
In the weeks leading up to the FA report being published, some newspapers claimed that the word Suarez had used was “negrito”, a less offensive and more friendly version of “negro”. They were speculating. Some Liverpool fans who, for some reason, never read the FA report still claim that this is the word Suarez used.
The FA report takes the statements of both Suarez and Evra, amongst others, and both players agree that “negro” is the word Suarez used when arguing with Evra.
Paragraph 6 of the report deals with Suarez’s explanation: “According to Mr Suarez, at no point in the goal mouth did he use the word “negro”. When the referee blew his whistle to stop play, Mr Evra said [in English] “Don’t touch me, South American.” Mr Suarez replied “Por que, negro?” Mr Suarez claimed he used “negro” as a noun and as a friendly form of address to people seen as black or brown-skinned.”
The language experts confirmed in the FA report that “negro” could be used between friends in Uruguay without any connotations of racism. They also confirmed that the word, like in England, was still a form of racist abuse if not said between friends.
Suarez admitted in the FA report that he pinched Evra and that he hit him around the back of the head. He also admitted to an earlier foul when he kicked Evra in the knee. He revealed that he was not friends with Evra. The argument they had was in the middle of a Liverpool vs United fixture at Anfield, one of the most hate-filled rivalries in the world. The FA rightly dismissed Suarez’s ridiculous claim that that he was calling Evra “negro” in a friendly way.
So, that is Suarez’s first complaint dealt with. The proof that he racially abused Evra came from his own testimony.
The next issue is to do with the length of the ban. Suarez was banned for eight games whilst Terry was banned for just four. Why?
Terry, like Suarez, was charged with a breach of the FA’s Rule E3(2) which states that football people should not use “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour”. The rule states that if such abuse includes “reference to a person’s ethnic origin, colour or race”, the panel can consider doubling the penalty it would have imposed had that “aggravating factor” not been present. The panel in the Suarez case specifically said that a four-game ban “is the entry-point” for breaches of E3(2) and it did double that minimum penalty to “reflect the gravity of the misconduct”.
The fact that Terry has been sanctioned with the minimum penalty suggests that the panel in his case, despite finding him guilty, did not find the reference to Ferdinand’s colour or race an aggravating factor such that it would double the ban.
However, whilst Suarez was banned for longer, Terry was fined more. It was a £220,000 fine for Terry and a £40,000 fine for Suarez, with the regulatory panels taking into account a player’s weekly wage.