On Tuesday night we finally learned the outcome of the race row between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez.
With the offence taking place in mid October, it took until December 20th for the FA to hand Suarez an eight match ban and a £40k fine.
Some people will feel the punishment isn’t severe enough, whilst Liverpool fans will undoubtedly feel hard done by but the FA’s decision is a huge step. Abusive language normally carries a punishment of a 2 game ban, so the fact that Suarez’s racial tinged abuse earned him an 8 game ban sends a clear message that it won’t be tolerated.
Yet despite this, I still feel disappointment when looking back on this whole episode?
Racism is still a massive problem in football, you only have to look at the reception black players get in various countries on the continent. Despite being Italian, Mario Balotelli is a favourite target for the boo boys in Serie A and he is still sung about despite no longer playing in that league.
When England visit these countries for internationals and you hear the monkey chants aimed at black players there is normally an uproar amongst English fans, but when it happened at club level the reaction from fans was most shocking.
Football is a very tribal game, it is always an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ thing. I’ll tell you now I’m one of the worst for that, in fact I enjoy that aspect of the game. But at some point you have to put it aside and look at what’s right and what’s wrong.
I saw all manner of claims in the immediate aftermath as Liverpool fans sought to not only defend Suarez, but to discredit Evra. On the day, LFC TV official columnist Kristian Walsh tweeted,
Patrice Evra has accused racism of three players before today. All three have been cleared.
Upon being pulled up on the factual inaccuracy of the tweet, he tried to back track before tweeting the next day,
The Evra tweet was a fallacy. I’m an idiot.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Joseph Gobbels once said and Walsh’s tweet had this effect.
Liverpool fans began using this as a defence despite it’s inaccuracy and eventually even neutrals began to spout this nonsense.
Nobody seemed to care if racism did or didn’t take place, instead I got the impression that it was just Liverpool vs United again, but this time off field. I can understand this may sound bias but I felt like some liverpool fans weren’t too bothered with the logistic of the case, instead it was simply Evra had previous so he must be lying again.
The matter wasn’t helped by the foolish ramblings of Sepp Blatter, who sat in the background at FIFA headquarters making silly claims like racially abused players should simply shake hands and forget it.
All in all the whole thing descended into a joke.
The rivalry between United and Liverpool is a huge one, but has been put aside at times for matters that have been deemed as important for both sets of fans. There was talk of a joint protest against both sets of US owners back when Hicks and Gillet were still in charge at Anfield, but despite both teams having black players I suppose this wasn’t an important enough matter.
If the comments made during the hearing were bad, what came after was infinitely worse. The reaction of fans following the verdict was damning and this applies to both sides.
In United’s case I got the impression that some fans didn’t care that Suarez was being brought to task over his comments, rather it was just another instance of getting one up on an enemy. Some United fans revelled in the problems Liverpool would face sans their talisman.
I saw people tweeting how the ban would effect the title race with talk of the him missing the game against us, but ruefully also missing the game against Man City.
It seemed they were happier that it would handicap Liverpool more than than the fact he was being punished.
And for Liverpool, they need to take a very good look at the people that support their club.
@MsBerbatov compiled these responses from Liverpool fans to the outcome of the case from various social network sites.
I warn some of the things expressed here are very offensive, and it appears some of them don’t see the irony in using racist language to express their anger that one of their players was punished for using racially abusive language.
Norwich recently banned a fan that had racially abused James Vaughan via Twitter, I wonder if LFC will take such steps with some of the people that appear in the picture above?
I understand defending a player but the stance their club has taken with Suarez leads me to believe they won’t.
For me this whole episode brought out an ugly side of football that so many have tried to cover up or simply denied was a problem any longer.
There is no place for racism in society let alone sport and that’s not me speaking as a black man, rather it’s me speaking as a human being.
Had it been the other way around and a United player was being accused of racism, whether it was socially acceptable where he was from or not, I would find it hard to support that player.
So many fans are quick to point fingers at other countries when players suffer abuse over there but want to turn a blind eye when it happens here or make excuses, and for me that makes them as bad as the people making racist remarks.
Whether you agree with the punishment meted out or not, the FA’s attempt to show that this kind of thing won’t be tolerated is commendable.
But they can only deal with footballers.
The problem now is how to deal with everyone else, and despite football’s massive influence in the world I think this is a problem that won’t abate any time soon.