Early Doors

Liverpool adding to tribal idiocy

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Luis Suarez

Early Doors had its Christmas party last night. It was suggested that, in order to avoid a hungover scribble, it just publish a one word edition today: 'Suarez!'

The argument being that anything more is superfluous. Let's just reflect on the magnitude of the story, the repercussions and the reaction. Wow. Amazing.

Sadly, ED's Grinch-like boss did not sign off the one-word blog. Can't imagine why not.

So here is ED's two cents.

You would hope that in a case of this seriousness, football would not simply split down club lines.

You would hope that observers would put their allegiances to one side and take an objective look at a case that goes beyond sport.

You would hope, but you would obviously end up crushingly disappointed.

The news story on this site has over 1,000 comments; nearly all of them partisan, plenty of them offensive, too many of them referring disgracefully to those two bywords for tragedy: Hillsborough and Munich.

Frankly, it's a complete, sorry mess.

Sometimes you feel things are too important to let football fans anywhere near them, and this case has seen them at their most idiotically tribal.

With that in mind, it is thoroughly depressing to see Liverpool FC get in on the act with its incredible reaction to the news Luis Suarez has been banned for eight matches after being found guilty (pending appeal - ED is going to be using those words a lot this morning) of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Liverpool's statement last night was truly extraordinary in both its tone and content, taking furious shots at Evra and the FA.

Their man has been found guilty of a very serious offence, so they might just want to wind their necks in a little bit.

Support Suarez, by all means. Appeal, as you have a right to do. But show some restraint and some dignity. Act in a manner befitting a club of Liverpool's stature.

As the statement itself pointed out, Liverpool have done more than their share to combat injustice and discrimination.

That is why it is so uncomfortable to see them in such a frenzy, and to see Kenny Dalglish use the phrase forever associated with the club in his message of support: 'Let's not let him walk alone.'

Liverpool should think very carefully before attempting to turn Suarez into a great, modern-day martyr.

They might want to say: "Much as we love Luis, and much as he's our best player, and much as his offence came against our most hated rivals, the FA thinks he has committed a very serious breach of discipline and we should probably reflect that."

There is so much in Liverpool's statement that can be picked apart, but ED will focus on just a few bits:

"It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible - certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations."

This is a disgrace. The mention of "prior unfounded accusations" refers to two other cases in which claims of racial abuse against Evra have been made.

To paraphrase - Evra plays the race card.

The thing is, on neither occasion did Evra make the accusation. In 2006, a deaf fan claimed to lip-read abuse of Evra by Steve Finnan, and in 2008 United coaches Mike Phelan and Richard Hartis said they heard a Chelsea groundsman insult Evra.

Neither claim was proven. And neither claim was made by Evra. This point is outlined in this excellent blog post (yes, it's a United blog, but it makes a very good point).

For Liverpool to themselves make a false claim about Evra is lamentable.

"It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said 'I don't think that Luis Suarez is racist'. The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suarez was not racist."

It is not key. It is irrelevant.

Being a racist and committing a racist act are not the same thing.

When Ron Atkinson made his disgusting remarks about Marcel Desailly, a large number of his former players came out and said Atkinson was not a racist.

Did any of these people say that he should not be punished? Of course not.

Nobody said: "It is accepted that Ron is not a racist, therefore he cannot be guilty."

People are nuanced, inconsistent, unpredictable. It is perfectly possible to commit an isolated racist act in an otherwise tolerant life.

"Luis himself is of a mixed race family background as his grandfather was black."

Really? 'Some of my best grandparents are black'?

"It appears to us that the FA were determined to bring charges against Luis Suarez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November. "

"We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks to an opponent after he admitted himself in his evidence to insulting Luis Suarez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms. "

Utterly depressing remarks, which try to make the case about Liverpool versus Manchester United (and the FA), when it should be a serious examination of what one man said to another man.

"Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult."

To his credit? Maybe he genuinely didn't hear the insult. And Liverpool's wording suggests that he did hear the insult, but decided to say otherwise. If that were indeed the case, then ED is not sure how lying to an FA enquiry is to anybody's credit.

- - -

This is a difficult, unprecedented case that needs to be looked at carefully and sensitively.

The argument centred less around what Suarez said as what he meant, and that is a thorny issue of deep cultural nuances.

It would seem the FA have decided that, though 'Negrito' might be a term of utmost endearment in Uruguay, they cannot allow any language with racial connotations.

ED sees their point, though it can also accept the argument that the punishment is heavy-handed.

Maybe the FA's process was flawed, though it is hard to see anything for all the mud-slinging.

Frankly, ED doesn't know exactly what happened in that goalmouth, and it doesn't know what the appropriate sanction should be for a player found guilty.

Looking at the reaction of Liverpool, the media and the fans, ED is virtually alone in this uncertainty.

But that's football, where everybody knows everything all the time, even when they actually know nothing.

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