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Anorak | The Liverpool Post defends racially abusive Luis Suarez badly

The Liverpool Post defends racially abusive Luis Suarez badly

by | 3rd, January 2012

IS football so partisan that the only colour Liverpool’s Luis Suarez concerns himself with is red? Sure, the FA says he is guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, but Evra’s not a black man making a stand – he’s just a United player doing down The Reds.

In the Liverpool Post, Ben Thonley thought it was good idea to write:

Is it acceptable to smear Liverpool FC striker Luis Suarez’s reputation on the hunch of three men?

And his editor thought it wise to publish it:

IF you have neither the time nor inclination to read the Football Association’s hefty report on their investigation into the Luis Suarez/ Patrice Evra racism row, let me save you the trouble.

Go on:

After two months and 115-pages, the entire case came down to one man’s word against another’s.

No. It doesn’t. The report, which we have read and you can read here, says on Page 54:

214. This case is not simply about one person’s word against another. Whilst there were conflicting accounts of what happened which were presented to us by Mr Evra and Mr Suarez, there was other relevant evidence which
we were able to take into account in reaching our decision. This other evidence included
video footage of the match; the evidence of others as to what happened during or 55
immediately after the match; documentation in the form of the referee’s report which was
based on conversations he had immediately after the match; transcripts of interviews with
the main protagonists and other witnesses conducted in the course of the FA’s
investigation before witness statements were prepared for the purpose of this hearing; and
the evidence given to us by other witnesses quite apart from Mr Evra and Mr Suarez,
including expert witnesses on Spanish language. We reached our decision on the basis of a
consideration of the totality of the evidence attaching such weight as we considered
appropriate to the different elements of it.

215. It was accepted by both Mr Greaney and Mr McCormick in closing submissions that this is
not simply a case of one person’s word against another. Mr McCormick nevertheless
submitted that the case turns very substantially on the evidence of the two main
protagonists, that we should think very carefully before reaching a conclusion based
solely on the word of the main protagonist for the FA, and that we should look at the
other evidence, and see whether there is other evidence that corroborates Mr Evra’s story.
We agree that at the heart of this case is a dispute between Mr Evra and Mr Suarez as to
what was said. Before reaching our decision, we assessed the credibility of those two
individuals and examined all the other evidence with great care to see whether it
supported or undermined Mr Evra’s or Mr Suarez’s account. We asked ourselves which
account was more probable. We kept in mind the seriousness of the Charge, and the
burden and standard of proof.

Undeterred by fact, Thornley presses on:

There was no evidence nor supporting witnesses to back up either player’s version of the events.

Really. Here’s what Damien Comilli – a Liverpool employee – said:

292. Mr Suarez said this in his witness statement:

“After the match, Damien Comolli spoke to me and explained that Ferguson and
Evra had complained to the Referee that I had racially insulted Evra five times
during the game. He asked me to tell him what happened. I told him that Evra had
said to me “Don’t touch me, South American”. I said I had replied “Por que negro?” I
said that was the only thing I had said. There seems to have been a
misunderstanding on Mr Comolli’s part because he interpreted what I said to him to
mean that I said the equivalent of “Why can’t I touch you? Because you are black?”.
This was not, in fact, what I said but, even if I had said it, it would have made sense
at the time and would not have been intended to be offensive or racially offensive.
Nonetheless, I did not say it.”

293. Mr Comolli dealt with the matter in this way in his witness statement:
“[M]y recollection was that LS had replied to PE “Why, because you are black?”. I
thought he had said “Por que, tu eres negro?” or “Por que es negro?”. “Por que” can
mean both “Because” and “Why” in Spanish. I thought that LS had said “Por que”
meaning “Because” and therefore assumed that he would have used the words “you
are” to say “Because you are black?”. Instead LS said “Por que” to mean “why” as in
“Por que negro?”. I therefore accept LS’s version that he said “Por que negro?” in
reply to PE’s request that he should not touch him

And then there is Dirk Kuyt, who plays for Liverpool:

The second difficulty in the way of Mr McCormick’s submission is Mr Kuyt’s evidence.
When Mr Kuyt was interviewed by the FA on 2 November, he said that he had spoken to
Mr Suarez after the game about Mr Evra’s complaint. Mr Kuyt said that Mr Suarez speaks
Dutch very well and so they always speak to each other in Dutch. Mr Kuyt had heard
about Mr Evra’s complaint and asked Mr Suarez what he had said to Mr Evra. Mr Kuyt
told the FA in Dutch what he recalled Mr Suarez saying to him in the dressing room. The
interview with Mr Kuyt was recorded, and the FA subsequently transcribed the Dutch
words used by Mr Kuyt and had these translated by an independent interpreter. This 76
means that we were able to consider what Mr Kuyt then recalled Mr Suarez having said to
him in Dutch, together with a translation from the Dutch into English.
297. According to Mr Kuyt, Mr Suarez said to him that he had touched Mr Evra on the head
and he (Mr Evra) said something along the lines of “get away from me South American”,
to which Mr Suarez replied “because you’re black can’t…why can’t I touch you then”. The
Dutch words which Mr Kuyt recalled Mr Suarez using were “omdat je zwart bent
mag…waarom mag ik je daarom niet aanraken”. Mr Kuyt explained to us that the initial
phrase in this passage means “because you are black”, i.e. omdat (because) je (you) zwart
(black) bent (are).

298. Mr Suarez gave evidence about the conversation he had with Mr Kuyt after the game. By
the time of his witness statement, Mr Suarez had clearly become aware of what Mr Kuyt
had said to the FA in his interview. As with Mr Comolli’s account given to the referee after
the game, what Mr Kuyt had told the FA was potentially difficult for Mr Suarez given the
case he was now putting forward.

299. Mr Suarez dealt with this discrepancy in the following way in his witness statement:
“Dirk Kuyt also spoke to me after the match and I explained to him in Dutch what
had happened. His Dutch version of what was said appears to have lost something
in translation because he, too, is supposed to have heard from me that I said “Why
can’t I touch you? Because you’re black?” but all I said was “Por que negro?”.
300. When Mr Suarez said in this passage that Mr Kuyt “too” misheard Mr Suarez, that is a
reference to Mr Comolli also “mishearing” what Mr Suarez said.

Thornley just ploughs on:

And in the end, the much discussed linguistic nuances of the word “negro” and its use in South American Spanish mattered little. Language experts brought in by the FA concluded that what Suarez admits to having said – “what, negro?” – wouldn’t be considered offensive in his native Uruguay, but what Evra says he hurled at him would be.

No. The report says:

According to the experts, the Spanish word “negro” cannot simply be translated as
“nigger”. Whereas “nigger” refers exclusively to a person with dark skin, “negro” can be
used both as a noun (“a black”) and as an adjective; as an adjective it might be used to refer
to a person (“un hombre negro” [a black man]) but equally to an object (“una caja negra” [a
black box]).

168. It is important to grasp that the word “negro” is ambiguous in all countries and regions of
Latin America.

169. In Uruguay and other areas of Latin America, some people who self-identify as black
object to the use of the word “negro” as a term of address, as they say it highlights skin
colour when this should be irrelevant; they point out that the term “blanco” [white] is 46
rarely used in this fashion. Others, however, actively claim the term “negro” as a political
identity, seeking to overturn its possible negative connotations.

170. The word “negro” can have pejorative connotations, as it may be associated with low class
status, ugliness, vulgar behaviour, noisiness, violence, dishonesty, sexual promiscuity etc.
In the River Plate region, for example, “los negros” is sometimes employed as a general
term for the lower classes and especially for lower-class people whose behaviour is
deemed vulgar and not “respectable”.

171. Thus, the word can be employed with the intent to offend and to offend in racial terms;
often the word would be appended with further insult, as in the example “negro de
mierda” [shitty black].

So it all came down to who the three-man panel believed.

No. No. No. They looked at the evidence. Any belief was based on the facts.

They decided Evra was the more credible witness, chiefly because his version of events tallied closer to the television footage of the incident than Suarez’s.

Wrong gain, Ben Thornley. The report says:

“The impression created by these inconsistencies was that Mr Suarez’s evidence was not, on the whole, reliable. He had put forward an interpretation of events which was inconsistent with the contemporaneous video evidence. He had changed his account in a number of important respects without satisfactory explanation.”

Thornley adds:

Essentially the Liverpool striker has been convicted on the hunch of three men.

Hunch: an intuitive guess or feeling. A guess?

Anyone want to work on the hunch that Ben Thornley supports Liverpool?



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