How the FA smeared Suarez and an entire culture

by Graeme Wallace

Perhaps it is a little too early to pen an article about Luis Suarez and the FA while the toxic fallout to his eight game ban continues. Nonetheless, it is hard to ignore the ramifications that go a lot further than the beautiful game.

Details of why the FA charged Suarez are sketchy, partly due to their reluctance to release their evidence, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the three man panel’s decision rested on the claim that Suarez referred to Evra as “negro” or “negrito”.

We live in a Western society that is afraid to refer to race. If someone asked you to point out a black person in a street full of white people, chances are you would feel inclined to try and describe his clothes as opposed to his race. It is this cultural reticence that has dictated the FA’s decision. Our form of multiculturalism is one which tries to ignore the fact that people have different skin colours.

Luis Suarez is not from Western Europe. Insights into Uruguayan culture in light of this whole mess have been enlightening. In Uruguay, people don’t wince when a black person is called black. Uruguayan football commentators refer to players by a distinguishing characteristic – the Bolivian! The Argentine! The black!

There is a reason why Uruguay is up in arms about the FA’s decision. Uruguayan striker Sebastián Abreu was not exaggerating when he said that Suarez has “three million Uruguayans behind him.” These three million people, amongst  many others, are outraged that something that is the norm in their country is being treated so contemptuously by the English FA and English journalists.

There is no doubt that it is an alien concept to many of us that you can idly call someone black and not get any funny looks. However, if Suarez did call Evra “negro” or “negrito” he had no idea that this was offensive. John Barnes, a man who suffered horrific racist abuse throughout his career, believes “ignorance is an excuse.”

That’s what it ultimately boils down to. Suarez isn’t aware of the attitudes to race in England. He doesn’t realise the media are hung up about it, as is our government and public bodies. In Uruguay, it is acceptable to call a black person black, whereas in England it often is not.

Suarez is not wrong. He has a different culture, he comes from a different place. People in the north of England are different to people from London. People from London are different from people from Belfast. People from a far flung part of South America are different from people in Europe.

The Football Association, however, has refused to acknowledge this difference, nor accept it. Uruguayan culture isn’t quite there yet. Our attitudes reign supreme. It really is quite distasteful to think that this panel has sat down and considered how race is treated in Uruguay only to decide that an entire people are wrong.

The Suarez saga is bigger than football. It is about a clash of cultures, misunderstanding, self righteousness and fairness. The FA have opened a can of worms. It is not the FA’s place to call another country’s cultures and attitudes racist. Fear of race will forever stymie true progress on anti-racism campaigns in England.

62 Responses

  1. Russell Abercrombie says:

    Interesting. Although I have to question this reasoning…

    “Suarez is not wrong. He has a different culture, he comes from a different place. People in the north of England are different to people from London. People from London are different from people from Belfast. People from a far flung part of South America are different from people in Europe.

    The Football Association, however, has refused to acknowledge this difference, nor accept it. Uruguayan culture isn’t quite there yet. Our attitudes reign supreme. It really is quite distasteful to think that this panel has sat down and considered how race is treated in Uruguay only to decide that an entire people are wrong.”

    That’s just a ridiculous argument to make. He’s not in Uruguay now though. He plays his football in Britain and if he wants to continue to do that he must conform to our rules and ideals. If I moved to a predominantly muslim country e.g I wouldn’t go about demanding bacon rolls everywhere I go. Footballers need to realise they are in the public eye and because of that are subject to stricter ‘sanctions’ than the average Joe in the street.

    1. Sean says:

      I think the vast majority of people are ignorant to race issues… even the bacon remark is way off. I’ve been to a number of Muslim countries, where bacon is on the menu for westerners – pork in Tunisia is beautiful when cooked with olive oil!

      That remark sums up ignorant perceptions – likewise, the FA are ignorant to those cultural differences.

  2. paulocon says:

    This is all about context.

    The term used by Suarez can be used as a term of endearment in his native country but it is has to be mentioned that it can also be used in a pejorative context (such as during an argument for example).

    There can be no doubt that in this instance, it was meant in the pejorative context given that the two were having an ongoing spat during the game. I would imagine (but I don’t have the facts) that this is what the FA based their judgement on.

    ” It really is quite distasteful to think that this panel has sat down and considered how race is treated in Uruguay only to decide that an entire people are wrong….. It is not the FA’s place to call another country’s cultures and attitudes racist”

    I also don’t think the FA are calling the attitudes of another country racist. I think the FA are making a judgement based on attitudes within the country over which it presides. Surely Suarez has spent enough time in Europe and England to know what is acceptable culturally. Put it this way, if someone working in a check-out in Tesco’s was to do something similar, would the argument that ‘it’s alright to say that where I come from’ carry any weight? I very much doubt it.

    I think the real losers in this are LFC. Their stance both pre and post-verdict has been at best, ill-advised. There seems to have been a decision made at some level to undermine the name of Patrice Evra culminating in the incorrect and disgraceful insinuation in the official LFC club record that ‘Evra has previous’ when it comes to such allegations.

    1. Kirk Williams says:

      LFC are only losers in the eyes of people who want to see them in that light. There is nothing wrong with their defence of a player and team mate who they believe has been misjudged. They are clearly not condoning or supporting rascists, racism or racist comments, they simply don’t believe that that was the basis of anything Suarez said. An opinion just as valid as any on this or other public forum. Please also try to keep the facts straight. LFC stated that Evra was “not credible”, drawing on the FA’s own assessment of his testimony/evidence in the Chelsea steward case. That’s a reference to a matter of public record not an implication he has previous for allegations.

  3. Anthony says:

    You begin by claiming that the FA are “reluctant” to release the full findings of the hearing (the more likely cause for the delay is that both clubs must first agree on a non confidential version of the findings to be released into the public domain), but you then approach the article presuming precise knowledge of the context in which the term was used.

    In reality the word used (reported by the usually reliable Daniel Taylor of the Guardian as being “negro”, not “negrito”) and its meaning in Uruguayan culture compared to that in England is irrelevant. Even its meaning specifically in the context of English culture does not really have a large bearing here.

    The crux of the matter is that the independent panel found that Suarez abused Evra in a manner that made reference to his racial or ethnic background. This goes beyond the mere words used and extends to the whole of the conflict between Evra and Suarez.

    This is why the defence of Suarez of saying simply that ‘negrito’ or even ‘negro’ can be used in Uruguay to address someone amicably misses the point for me. These terms, while amicable in Uruguay, most definitely do concern the race and ethnic background of a person and as such in a heated conflict between players their use can amount to racial abuse.

  4. Baz says:

    Suarez was trying to gain an advantage by distracting Evra from his game, it is naïve to think he did not know the offensive nature of his words, if he didn’t why would he say it repeatedly in a football game ?

  5. Brownie says:

    So does being from a different culture therefore excuse behaviour? So if for example you come from Iran can it be considered acceptable to persecute and stone women from western society for what are considered minor offences in the UK? Of course not. If you reside in a country then you need to abide by their laws and cultures. If Suarez is too ignorant to learn these then that is his own fault and he fully deserves the punishment

    1. alan says:

      Brownie, if you were visiting another country, and said to someone, say, ‘ You cheeky monkey ‘, and that person took offence, would you not be slightly annoyed about this?

      It is no good going to an extreme to try and proove your point.

      1. David Brown says:

        If I was living and working a job in a different country where I knew that every one of my actions would be scrutinised so stringently and was always in the public eye then I would take the time and make the effort to learn about the culture and what would be considered offensive in that particular society. It is plainly obvious that Suarez said what he did to wind Evra up knowing that he may be able to get a reaction from this (possibly Evra getting sent off or affecting his performance). I don’t buy this ‘term of endearment’ crap – why would he be using a term of endearment to a rival player?

        1. FreeSuarez says:

          I disagree he was trying to wind him up. It was obvious that Suarez already had Evra wound up by running circles around him with the ball.

          On a serious note, it appears as if Suarez only used whatever term he used once, not multiple times as Evra also claimed.

          Evra started the verbal abuse and should therefore also face charges

          Finally, it is not out of the question to think that if Evra spoke to Suarez in Spanish, Suarez would respond back in spanish. This alone would insinuate that under a different language which carries different cultural and linguistic meanings it can easily be misunderstood and misconstrued.

          Just because Suarez has spent a few years in Europe and the rest of his life in a country where this is acceptable does not mean he magically turns into a perfect being who would suddenly forget that he cannot use certain words. If you study linguistic or bilingual communication courses understanding and instinctual language norms are based off your first language and culture. Considering he is just learning English would further rectify this point that despite his time in Europe he may not be aware of the connotations.

  6. Graeme says:

    You can hardly equate what in South America is a normal, innocent and affectionate piece of terminology with the barbaric practice that is stoning women. Yes, Suarez was ill informed but malicious he was not.

    1. David Brown says:

      Stoning women is barbaric. However if you go to certain regions of the middle east, this is not considered so. It’s exactly the same in regards to cultural relativity. He was obviously being malicious otherwise why would he say it?

      1. Brian says:

        “He was obviously being malicious otherwise why would he say it?”

        How was he obviously being malicious? If taken in the context of Suarez’ defence that it’s a regualr term without racial connotation, then it becomes as inconsequential as the term ‘mate’ or ‘pal’ on the end of a sentence. Hardly “obviously malicious”, the high and mighty attitude emanating from this countries media and it’s readership is nothing short of staggering, the idea that people are happy to string a lad up for what amounts to an ill-advised comment based on a cultural difference, what bothers me is the fact that we know Evra’s own teammates (the South American contingent) have used this phrase on previous occasions. So did Evra just choose to be offended this time? Anyhow surely we should be waiting to find out exactly how our moral guardians the FA came to this conclusion when they produce their report. By condemning Suarez as a racist as the media are keen to do, they’re effectively labeling the Uruguayan people as racist. “We’re English we know best, we have the moral high ground” Bollox!!!

  7. Luke says:

    Awful article, absolutely awful. The author conveniently ignores the fact that Suarez has lived in Western Europe for several years and thus ignorance is simply not an excuse. He did not arrive off the plane that day and then innocently use the term. He said it during a heated argument and there can be no doubt it meant to cause offense. The authors argument might wash if somebody had recently arrived in
    the UK and used the adjective but this is clearly not the case. Smeared a whole nation? This topic has been debated so much that everybody now understands the term is not offensive in Uruguay. C

    1. Graeme says:

      He lived in Holland, which has totally different views on racism as well. In Dutch, the worst insults are ones that wish illness on others: “I hope you get cholera” and the like. ‘Black’ in Dutch is not racist, merely a descriptive.

    2. Paul egan says:

      What people seem to be forgetting is that evra himself has said Luis is not a racist

    3. Brian says:

      What heated argument is this? When you see the pictures of the alledged “argument”, it looks like Suarez is trying to appeal to Evra in a calm manner (this doesn’t make him innocent but certainly goes against the theory of a heated argument).

      Another point is have you ever been on the receiving end someone getting agitated and tried to calm it down, does that make it a heated argument with both parties throwing insults?

      Aside from all of this, Evra admitted to calling Suarez, using a derogatory term for South American (believed to be Sudaca). Did Suarez use the term as a reaction to Evra or vice versa, who is guilty in this?

  8. delacaravanio says:

    “Suarez isn’t aware of the attitudes to race in England.”

    Come off it. He moved to Holland five years ago, a country with the same hang-ups about race as everywhere else in western Europe.

    1. Michael says:

      Your wrong pal . Goes to show you dont do your home work . In holland it is not seen in the same light as we in England do . In holland racist remarks would be recognised if the word Was used as Negro ….
      We all know he used the word Negrito .

    2. impz says:

      Holland is a million miles ahead the UK regarding race. in fact most of western europe is a million miles ahead.

  9. Oeri says:

    You missed 1 crucial point…Evra is nt from Uruguay otws he cld av easily laughed it off; Simply put Suarez ws contextually wrong 2 refer to Evra as ‘Negro or Negrito’

    1. webstered says:

      In that,case was evra contextually wrong to use the term he used to Suarez? Either punish both or not but you can’t stand over punishing one and not the other

  10. ListenWallace says:

    Your post makes no sense to me.

    You are aware that Suarez wanted to make Evra upset during the game by calling him ” ” and he certainly understands this will cause him some problems since he was trying to tell a lie that he never made such comments.

    1. Paul egan says:

      Wrong again Luis has admitted that he said it he did this because he saw nothing Wrong with saying this

    2. Brian says:

      But he didn’t deny it, he openly admitted it right away! Why would he do that if he believed it was racist?

  11. John says:

    ‘Negro or Negrito’ either way he used it as an insult- trying to justify it by saying :

    “We live in a Western society that is afraid to refer to race. If someone asked you to point out a black person in a street full of white people, chances are you would feel inclined to try and describe his clothes as opposed to his race”

    I’d have no problem if someone asked me to point out a black guy on the pitch or in the street- i’d point and say he’s black no big deal but i wouldnt say it to someones face who i’m in an altercation with on the football pitch “hey black man”. Its a disgrace to to try justify his remarks with the term” ignorance”.

    The guy is clearly a bit of a nut case- he’s bit someone in a football game.

    1. Brendan says:

      If he said “nigger,” I would completely agree with you, would you get offended if someone said hey white guy in an altercation on the pitch? Also by calling him a nut case you reveal you are biased.

      1. Brendan says:

        For example, Eric Cantona kicked a fan during a match. If he was then involved in racial argument, why would I take into account the fact that he kicked someone? Two completely different things.

    2. Brian says:

      “‘Negro or Negrito’ either way he used it as an insult”

      Says who, I assume you speak the language, why exactly is it an insult, is it because it looks like one, it’s pathetic. How is it automatically an insult?

      “The guy is clearly a bit of a nut case- he’s bit someone in a football game.”

      By the same logic Evra has multiple attempts at accusing people of racism towards him and each time it has been thrown out, so should we judge Evra’s accusation based on that?

      1. paulocon says:

        Evra DOES NOT have multiple attempts at accusing people of racism towards him. It would serve you well to research your facts before you post them and maybe take some time to look into where this particular piece of mis-information sourced from.

        I find it ridiculous that Evra has somehow been cast as a serial-accuser during this whole thing when that is patently untrue.

        1. FreeSuarez says:

          Your right he didn’t accuse. He let others do it for him without stating it wasn’t true. His history does state that he has a record of being as the FA has previously stated about Evra’s evidence/reports, exxaggerated and unreliable” This is why people question his credibility of truth.

  12. Brendan says:

    Evra referred to Suarez as “sudaca,” which in some contexts mean South American, in others is comparable to spic. Therefore he deserves the exact same punishment by all your logic.

  13. Bob says:

    You have to remember however, Evra is one crazy coon.

  14. Bob says:

    Seriously though, Evra apparently said ‘don’t touch me you south American’, which is referring to his nationality, and not in a complimentary way. Which according to the fa rules is as bad as racist abuse. So Evra should be subjected to the same punishment, maybe more for starting it. And for being a crazy coon.

  15. Putrajazz says:

    somehow FA´s decision seem full of flaw,, i wonder,, does these people even think about where is Suarez from,, or what about his family history..

    and in fact,, there is no way in the world that Suarez intended to offence a racism language to someone else,, Suarez aware if he do so it means he hurt his grandpop,, or any of his black colleagues (which many of them show their support towards him)..

    here in Indonesia we actually applied what Uruguayan culture applied to their people..
    FA have to be careful for what their move from today,, Uruguayan people will take it as an insult toward the culture they have made hundred years ago..

  16. Paul says:

    Was Evra not wrong to call Suarez ‘sudaca?’

    In Spanish it is an offensive term referencing someone’s origin.

    They were speaking in Spanish.

  17. dev71_m (@dev71_m) says:

    The point is Evra switched to *gutter* Spanish to say ‘don’t touch me *Sudaca*’.

    http://ow.ly/898Vn
    http://ow.ly/898WO

    Suarez always said there was an English part and a Spanish part.

    LFC statement says Evra “admitted in his evidence to insulting Luis Suárez in Spanish”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/dec/20/luis-suarez-liverpool-statement

    Suarez responded legitimately, in Spanish, ‘por que negro?’

    He was mocking Evra and his gutter Spanish insult, playing on the ambiguity of the term in his own language which Evra had decided to use to abuse him.

    The FA have ignored the verbal aggressor and sided with him against the player who *was* abused.

    LFC ask the FA when they will charge Evra with this admitted abuse.

    When people know what ‘sudaca’ means, they will understand what ‘Por que, negro’ meant and referred to.

  18. James Crow says:

    This is an embarrassing, disturbing state of affairs.

    ‘Uruguayan striker Sebastián Abreu was not exaggerating when he said that Suarez has “three million Uruguayans behind him.”’

    Interestingly, I have two Uruguayan friends (they and I live in Ireland) who are completely in agreement with the FA’s reasoning and judgement. Polarising this issue with respect to race is a hideous miscalculation which helps nobody. Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Evra by a panel of experts. This was not cultural whitewashing; though allowing for the abuser to set the parameters of ‘acceptable’ conduct is. This piece is sensationalist, offensive nonsense and I shall no longer be visiting BP Football as a result. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

    For a reaction to the Suarez and Terry sagas, please see my link below (includes testimony from a non-partisan Uruguayan):

    http://theneverendinggloryhole.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/racism-football-morality/

    1. stan says:

      your Uruguayan friends are wrong

    2. Mish says:

      A panel of experts?

      Really? And there was me thinking that he was tried, found guilty and flayed by three ageing white men (two of whom have prior connection with Manchester United) and ultimately found guilty with no evidence other than the word of Evra himself.

      What’s unfair about that? Care to ask your fictional Irish/Uruguayan friends?

  19. Darlington Nweke says:

    This whole drama is still hazy to me. I hope it becomes clearer when a decision is made on John Terry’s case.

  20. Jim says:

    It’s good to see an article that puts some other thoughts, level headedness, and the like into the mix. Every other reporter/rag running around writing reports that Suarez is a huge racist and John Terry is a patriotic hero, when he said what I believe to be far worse.

    My overall thought is that the 8 match ban is excessive and they are trying to make a political point.

    If they ban Suarez and the “Sudaca” statement is true, then Evra deserves an equal ban

    John Terry undoubtedly deserves a ban if the FA wanted to make a statement against racism. It would be the captain of the national squad paying the price for his comments and that would speak far more for the FA I.M.O.

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