Liveprool And Manchester United Balls: Luis Suarez Maintains He’s No Racist
THERE’S been a lot of trouble around former Liverpool player Luis Suarez, the last being a rather peculiar bite on an opponent when Uruguay played Italy in the World Cup.
However, off all the things that Suarez has done, the racism row where he used the word “negrito” in a spat with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra is the one that looms largest. And Suarez is adamant that he is not a racist and that he was simply misunderstood by non-Spanish speakers. While admitting that a row took place, he says he is “absolutely not” a racist.
At the time, Suarez received an eight match ban and a fine of £40,000 while playing for Liverpool.
In a quote from his book, serialised in Marca, Suarez said: “Did I use the Spanish word ‘negro’ in an argument that took place, in Spanish, with Patrice Evra on 15 October 2011 in a game between Liverpool and Manchester United? Yes.”
“Is the word ‘negro’ the same in Spanish as it is in English? No, absolutely not. Am I a racist? No, absolutely not.”
“I was horrified when I first realised that is what I was being accused of. And I’m still sad and angry to think that this is a stain on my character that will probably be there for ever.”
He continues: “I knew that Liverpool vs Manchester United was the biggest game in English football for all the years of rivalry, and maybe even more so since Manchester United surpassed Liverpool in the number of league titles won. It wasn’t my first game against them. We had played the season before and there had been no problems; the usual run-ins and clashes but nothing that I remember.”
“I first became aware there was a problem when Damian Comolli approached me after the game and asked me if anything had happened between me and Evra. At first I struggled to remember anything specific. There had been an argument, but then I had probably had quite a few arguments during the game. Comolli said to me: ‘Well, they are complaining about racism’. I was very surprised.”
“I recalled that the referee had called us over at one point. Evra had come looking for me at a corner asking me why I had kicked him. It is always a bit hypocritical when a defender who spends the whole game kicking you complains of being kicked. He initiated the argument and he chose to do so in Spanish. In the following exchanges between me and him I used the Spanish word “negro” once.”
“What some people will never want to accept is that the argument took place in Spanish. I did not use the word ‘negro’ the way it can be used in English.”
“As I am now fully aware (and I did not even know this at the time), in English there is a word that is spelled the same way but is pronounced differently and it is highly offensive: negro, pronounced nee-gro. Negro (pronounced neh-gro) in Spanish means ‘black’, nothing more.”
So here’s the thing – what was Suarez doing when he said ‘black’? Was he referring to the colour of his own hair? He can’t have been referring to someone’s boots, because players don’t wear black boots anymore.
This harks back to some of the weak-defences of the alleged racist abuse that Ian Wright faced from former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel (for which the goalkeeper was cleared, it is worth pointing out). The reports in 1997 said that the ‘keeper had called the Arsenal striker a “black bastard”, to which some tried to argue that ‘bastard’ was the insult and ‘black’ was merely an identifier.
Of course, without all racism, the mention of colour is to demean the victim – the insult is preceded by the reference to the skin to infer further inferiority. You’re not just a “shit”, but a “black shit”, if you refer to Luis Aragonés slur aimed at Thierry Henry.
So what was Suarez doing mentioning Evra’s skin colour at all? Did he say “This black guy has been kicking me all day?” Did he say “He’s black referee, just in case you didn’t notice. There’s no judgement on that – I was merely pointing it out.”
According to the FA report, Evra asked Suarez, in Spanish, why he kicked him and the Barcelona striker replied with “Because you are black”. When Evra threatened to punch Evra if he said it again, he apparently replied “No hablo con los negros”, which is either understood to mean “I don’t speak to niggers” or, if you prefer Suarez’s version, “I don’t speak to blacks”.
Another version is that Suarez said “Dale, negro…negro…negro”, which either means “OK, nigger, nigger, nigger”, or, again, from the flipside, it means “OK, blackie, blackie, blackie”.
Blackie. Nigger. It doesn’t matter which word Suarez meant because both are clearly and unavoidably racist.
Suarez’s evidence says that he used the word “negro” in the way that he did when he was growing up in Uruguay, which is a ‘friendly’ version of address to those who are black or brown skinned. Apparently, Suarez called Glen Johnson a ‘negro’, which seems incredibly unlikely as someone at the club, had it been a frequent and friendly statement, would’ve pointed out that outside of the Spanish language, ‘negro’ is a deeply offensive word and that he should avoid using it at all costs.
Even if Liverpool weren’t bothered by the racism itself, they’d want to maximise their investment by not having him banned for loads of games and being out of pocket being thrown into the bargain. As there were other Spanish speakers at the club, again, someone will have pointed out that the use of the word wasn’t on in England.
The story doesn’t add-up at any level. Yet, Suarez might be thick-enough to say a racist thing and not actually be a racist person. That’s the strange thing about this story. Professional athletes will sledge each other with the worst insults they can think of, just to try and lever 1% of advantage their way.
Either way, Suarez needs to start changing his behaviour rather than pleading innocence because, no matter which way you look at this incident, the odds are stacked against him.