Those who know me will tell you I'm not one for controversy. They'd also be lying to you! I've followed our club since I took my first breath almost 29 years ago to the day. Although I can't remember the good times very well, I'm proud to say I was there when we were the best in the land. I'm also proud to say that through many of my school years where I had the back ripped out of me for being an Evertonian, nothing meant more to me in the world than going to Goodison Park every Saturday and then to the far reaches of England to watch the eleven men the manager picked represent the crest I looked up to.
It may be this ribbing I took at school which fuels my passion to see cause hindrance to Liverpool Football Club and consequently bring a smile on my face. Love thy neighbour? Not a chance.
I've had plenty of discussions throughout my life with members of the opposite.....side. Some of them have become heated ones, some pointless, some simply to wind them up (they're very easy to wind up, by the way.) I've also developed this "nack" of sifting out the "decent" reds who speak sense from the idiots who don't even deserve my ignorance but get it anyway by default. The actions of their new star attraction this week have generated a point for discussion which I have absolutely no way of losing with them; so much so I've even tweeted the messiah himself, one @KennethDalglish.
The Football Association of England have for years now backed various campaigns with the common goal of kicking racism out of football. Such campaigns have grown with time, so much so that players regularly don t-shirts carrying their message, teams have photographs holding red cards demonstrating that's what they want to do with racism. Every club in England subscribe to the campaigns. When I was employed by Everton I attended a number of conferences attended by players past and present including John Barnes, Victor Anichebe, Leroy Rosenior, Jason De Vos, Francis Jeffers (yes!) and others. Their stories were jaw dropping and eye opening, especially Jason De Vos' experience when playing for Canada; but that's another story.
This week, an independant regulatory commission appointed by the FA comprising a former player and manager, a QC, and one other person found Luis Suarez guilty of misconduct contrary to FA Rule E3, that being he "used insulting words which included a reference to Mr (Patrice) Evra's colour within the meaning of Rule E3(2)." Suarez was consequently suspended for eight matches and fined £40,000 - not that the fine will harm him but one or two charities will be better off.
The actions of our neighbours in the days after this finding, lead by the head of the household King Kenny himself, have been nothing short of odd, disrespectful and defiant. I completely understand that you have to back your own. I would do myself, to the highest hilt. However, there are ways and means of going about it given the sensitive nature of the issue. Dalglish sent his players out pre-match wearing these stupid t-shirts which on the front had a picture of Suarez, and which carried his name and number on the back. He had already stated the whole club supported Suarez regardless of the findings and would continue to do so.
Now, here's my gripe.
Suarez himself admitted using the word "negrito" towards Evra at least once. The word itself relates to a class of several ethnic groups who inhabit several isolated parts of Southeast Asia. The Negritos share common features with African popultions, most notably their short stature, natural afro style hair and dark skin. In Spanish, the work "negrito" is devised from the word "negro" which means "little black person." Spanish is the official language of Uruguay. Gus Poyet, a native of Uruguay, has come out in support of the Liverpool man by explaining in a newspaper interview that the term "negrito" in Uruguay means "someone who's skin is darker than the rest......it is not offensive." Fine, ignorance to conformance of the English society/culture, I get that. Doesn't make it right though, does it?
Suarez used the term. The term refers to someone with dark skin/darker skin than "the rest." And the key thing here is, we aren't in Uruguay. Suarez himself has donned the "One Game, One Community" t-shirts when warming up. This means he must have some understanding of what it is all about, no matter how small. This in turn means he must have known what he was saying was going to cause offence, given that Suarez's colour differs from Evra's. Poyet said in the same article that Evra shouldn't go crying about it. Why shouldn't he?? It's wrong, and it goes against what his club and he as a player subscribe to.
Plenty, including Liverpool FC, have said that they are shocked that the FA (not the panel) can find Suarez guilty purely off Evra's word. But they aren't, are they? They're going by what Suarez himself has admitted to saying too. He admitted saying that word to Patrice Evra. If he hadn't have used it then he wouldn't be in this predicament and his club wouldn't be rowing up the preverbial creek without a paddle.
Others are comparing the issue to John Terry. Granted, the Chelsea captain was out of order too. He is "banged to rights" as one of my red friends put it given the video footage of him "speaking" to Anton Ferdinand. However, in my opinion John Terry is facing much more severe consequences than Luis Suarez. Don't forget, Anton Ferdinand didn't make the initial complaint to the FA. A member of the public made a complaint to the Police, who in turn investigated, gathered evidence and passed it to the Crown Prosecution Service, who have since decided there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Terry in a criminal court; the ramifications of which will not only be a fine, not only be a ban, but will also result in another punishment handed to him by a judge, and a criminal record.
And did you see the England captain's team mates walk out at White Hart Lane earlier with "26 Terry" tops on? Did Chelsea cease the opportunity to manipulate the media and have a mascot from an ethnic minority walk out holding Terry's hand? Did Andre Villas-Boas come out and harp on about how hard done by Terry is, how the Police and CPS are wrong and how Terry is no racist? No. Not at all. (In fact, he simply told Sky Sports he had spoken to Terry in private and Terry knew his stance on the issue).
This isn't the first incident of controversy by the way. Suarez has continually conned referees by diving, proven in the derby when Jack Rodwell's perfectly executed sliding tackle missed Suarez, yet the Everton man received a straight red from the ever eager Martin Atkinson and that changed the whole context of the game. In the world cup in South Africa, Suarez handled the ball on the goal line and was correctly sent off. Ghana missed the resulting penalty and proceeded to exit the competition. On his international debut, Suarez received his marching orders for two yellow cards. Nothing out of the blue? Try these on for size:
In November 2007, Suarez and Albert Luque messed up a free kick routine when playing for Ajax against Feyenoord. At half time, Suarez decided to raise his fists to Luque and was subsequently suspended by Ajax. Then, he decided he would feast on the collar of PSV Enidhoven player Otman Bakkal. Ajax banned him for two games. The Dutch FA added a further five games. His manager, Marco van Basten became increasingly frustrated by the amount of bookings he was collecting through diving and losing his temper.
How the loveable reds can take the stance they are choosing to is beyond me. How they can consider an appeal is also beyond me. Time after time the victim card is played. Yet when the blame lay solely at their door, they deny admission. The link to the paragraph about the good times and the bad should need no explanation. European ban, anyone?? Victims?? No chance. Talk about Heysel and its arf'd at. Talk about Hillsborough and you're shouted at like a naughty kid who's swore in class. Yet, it's fine to sing about the Munich Air Disaster.
Apparently, the real victims here will be the Liverpool fans, who pay good money week in week out to see the best players. Ok, point taken. Why didn't Suarez think of this before opening his mouth. Imagine Javier Hernandez would have called Glen Johnson something racial...... I can see the e-petitions and banners now.
Around the Twitter timelines last night floated a picture taken outside the DW Stadium either before or after the draw between Liverpool and Wigan. Some intelligent soul had sprayed "P. EVRA GRASS" on one of the doors. Vandalism, racism & moronism rolled into one.
"It's only because it's a Man United player, if it was any other team nothing would have been done about it." That's just the Liverpool supporters turning it into a Liverpool v Man Utd issue. They're missing the point. Trading songs about league titles, european cups etc, are Liverpool v Man Utd issues.
Glen Johnson tweeted: "I will support who I want, when I want!!! (In response to Paul McGrath saying he would have thrown the Suarez t-shirt on the ground if he were Johnson) There are many reasons why I am supporting Luis Suarez!!!" I actually replied to him "No there is only 1 - LFC Pay your wages. Where are your morals? And where is your spine?"
Suarez is facing further sanction following his salute to the Fulham fans at Craven Cottage. Eight games may just set a precedent that this sort of stuff will not be tolerated. It may encourage clubs to educate the players they recruit from abroad as to what is and isn't tolerated in this country. Why don't Liverpool take it on the chin, apologise using cultural differences as the reasoning and educate the player and the community alike. As I said to Mr Dalglish on Twitter, that's dignity.
"Football has got this tremendous power of joining people without any skin, religion and social discrimination." - Luis Suarez
As always, your comments are welcomed below.
Follow me on Twitter - @DarrenMelling