Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ball Harambee Jan. 11

On the Goaline of Racism By Bagga Wilks
The English Football Association published the findings of the Suarez vs Evra incident that occurred in October when Liverpool and Manchester United played to a 1-1 draw at Anfield. The FA was careful in ensuring that all the parties involved received due process. There was no rush to judgment. The Regulatory Commission explored the evidence meticulously and came to the conclusion that the Liverpool striker, Luis Suarez had violated Article 3 (1) and had used racially abusive language to Patrice Evra, the Manchester United left full back. Suarez was fined 40,000 pounds and suspended for eight Premier League matches. Mr. Suarez has decided not to appeal the verdict as the evidence against him is overwhelming.

The findings of the Regulatory Commission give us a fascinating insight into the globalized world of English professional soccer. Manchester United is a globally diverse soccer team. The squad, one of the best in the world, hails from South Korea, Brazil, Portugal, France, Serbia, Spain and a healthy contingent from the United Kingdom. The manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is considered one of the better coaches in the history of the game.
Suarez, a newly acquired Uruguayan to the Liverpool team, is new to English soccer but not to the world football. He represented his country in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and previously played professional football in Holland. The Liverpool team is less diverse and has become even less so under the new coach, Kenny Dalglish. Only one starter on the Liverpool team, Glen Johnson, who is also a member of the English national squad, is black.
The clash between Suarez and Evra began in the 65th minute in the match between Liverpool and Manchester United. Suarez had previously fouled Evra and Evra was particularly peeved as Suarez had kicked him on an ailing knee. After the foul, the anguished Evra wanted to know from Suarez why he had kicked him. This is where the Regulatory Commission combed through carefully all the contradictory accounts of what occurred between Suarez and Evra as they exchanged words waiting for the Liverpool skipper, Gerrard, to take a corner kick. Evra’s account which the Commission found credible stated that in response to his inquiry why Suarez had kicked him, Evra reminisced that Suarez bellowed that he did what he did because Evra was black. Evra interpreted that use of the word to mean the “N” word. Evra threatened to punch Suarez and Suarez further told him he does not speak to blacks. Suarez continued to taunt him “Blackie, Blackie, Blackie”.
Suarez’s version of the incident was different. He postulated that in his use of the word, he meant no racial disrespect but was in response to Evra calling him a “South American”. That was the account that Suarez gave to Matt Connelli of the Liverpool management team who speaks fluent Spanish, and Kenny Daglish, who does not speak Spanish. Suarez’s knowledge of English is rudimentary.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Patrice Evra filed formal complaints of the racial abuse to the referee and the fourth official immediately after the match. Evra had complained to the referee, Mariner, right after the incident but the referee took no action on the field except trying to calm down Evra and Suarez and later Evra and Kuyt. On the goal-line stand, it was Kuyt, the Liverpool forward who came between both players that thwarted the two players coming to blows.
Suarez does not speak English and his written testimony given to the Commission was backed up by Dalglish and Connolli. It is evident that Dalglish as the manager of Liverpool did not take seriously the charges of racial abuse and that is a poor reflection not just on Dalglish but on the entire Liverpool Football Club. Sir Alex Ferguson is to be commended as when Evra reported the incident, he immediately went with Evra to report it to the referee and the fourth official.
In the dressing room after the game, Evra re-enacted the incident to four of his team mates. They submitted written testimony in their own native tongue and which was translated into English. Valencia, an Ecuadorian, Nani, a Portuguese national, Anderson, a Brazilian and Hernandez from Mexico, all persons of color, bolstered Evra’s testimony of racial abuse.
The language barrier in the English Premier League is apparent. The Portuguese and Spanish speaking players are able to communicate with each other. Other than Sir Alex, no other English player or official appear to be involved. Ryan Giggs was told about the incident on the field but his pre-occupation was for Evra to avoid getting sent off the field.
The English Football Association Report on the incident of racial abuse and the action taken must be commended. They have demonstrated a “no tolerance” policy on racial abuse. But it is evident that all is not well in the English Premier League vis-à-vis matters of race and identity. Suarez claims that his grandfather was a black man and thus that makes him unlikely to be a racial abuser.
Anyone who has observed Suarez’s conduct for the short time that he has played in England will see evidence that he is an intemperate young man who lacks discipline. It is clear that he was not forthcoming to the officials of the Liverpool Football Club and was also not forthcoming at the hearing. He is deserving of the fine and the eight games suspension.
Throwing players together on a team from the four corners of the world does not automatically produce harmony. The variegated nationalities that make the EPL exceptional potentially have a lot to teach the world. It is obvious that the chemistry on the field does not necessarily spill over to relationships off the field. Referees are eager to issue yellow and red cards but they have to ensure that there is a higher level of civility on the field. They must clamp down on the profuse use of curse words. It is evident that the referee, Mariner did not respond appropriately to Evra’s complaint of racial abuse.
Dalglish has done a commendable job of coaching at Liverpool but in his handling of the Suarez incident, he behaved disgracefully. A coach is expected to support his players on the pitch, but he is also an educator about life off the pitch. Dalglish handling of the incident has not helped Suarez grow as a human being and maybe Dalglish cannot help Suarez because Dalglish is simply incapable of handling matters of racial abuse.

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