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Liverpool, Suarez And Racism

Published by Guardian on Sun, 19 Feb 2012

THE refusal of Liverpool FC' Luis Suarez to shake hands with Manchester United's Patrice Evra in an epic Premier League match is a pointer that the last has not been heard of racism in football. The cankerworm continues to rear its ugly head, and to at times, threaten to bring the 'beautiful game' into disrepute all over the civilized world.The Suarez's case is despicable, coming when the Liverpool star had just served an eight-match ban for racist taunts against the same Evra; and after reneging on his assurance to his club to be a gentleman and observe the traditional handshake. Suarez's conduct is obviously disappointing both to Liverpool that was subsequently forced to issue a public statement condemning the player; and to thousands of the leather game fans all over the world.Time was when England and Liverpool's winger John Barnes, a black player, endured the ignominy of racist chants and bananas being directed at him in order to distract him from his marvelous dribbling and scoring ways, for club and country. That was a very long time ago.The football world has indeed moved on since then, but if racial abuse which had been commonplace in many leagues around the world had gradually died down, there were still a few examples of misguided fans in some football stadia around the world turning back the hands of the clock and resorting to racial abuse on black players, who humiliatingly were referred to as 'coloured,' 'negro,' 'nigger,' or simply as 'black.'In 2006, when Cameroun and F.C. Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o had series of racist chants and monkey sounds directed at him for much of an away match at Real Zaragoza in a La Liga (Spanish League) match, without any protection from the match referee who had the powers to stop the match until those fans' unruly and uncivilized behaviour subsided, he stopped playing and actually attempted to storm away from the field.But for the timely pleas of his teammates, including Brazil's Ronaldinho, Argentina's prodigy, Lionel Messi, and his manager Frank Rijkaard, an unfortunate history would have been made.Since that exposure to the fact that racism was still real in football, both FIFA and UEFA had done a lot to distance their respective football governing bodies from the racial insults. Stringent rules were put in place, and punishment recommended for offenders. Match officials were even mandated not to spare any guilty offenders, and the host club side could even be punished with a heavy fine or deduction of league points, or both.It is with this background that the recent instances of racial abuse involving players as big as England and Chelsea's Captain John Terry, French 2010 World Cup captain Patrice Evra, and three of the world's biggest club sides ' Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea, have dominated the headlines around the world, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.First, it was Uruguay and Liverpool's world class striker, Luis Suarez, who launched a series of racist tirades at Manchester United's defender and skipper Patrice Evra during an EPL match in Anfield recently. Second was another EPL match between Chelsea and newly-promoted Queen's Park Rangers, during which a fracas broke out between Chelsea's John Terry, and QPR's Anton Ferdinand, younger brother of former England captain, Rio Ferdinand, occasioned by the younger Ferdinand's allegations that Terry racially abused him.After a thorough investigation ordered to be done by an independent investigative commission, Liverpool's Suarez was banned for an unprecedented eight games. The allegations against Terry are considered so serious that the case is in court.The meeting last Saturday of the two most successful club sides in British history, with Suarez in the line-up for the first time since his ill-mannered face-off with Suarez, attracted the attention of the football world. Managers, Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Liverpool legend Kenny Daglish, having worked on their respective players, were promised a handshake (however brief) by both Evra and Suarez. But Suarez changed his mind in obvious disrespect to his Club's management. Evra stretched his hand out, only for Suarez to ignore the United skipper's hand.Sir Alex rightly called the Uruguayan a 'disgrace to football,' who is not fit to wear and should never again be allowed to wear a Liverpool jersey again. The whole episode, even before Suarez's eight-match ban, had won no friends for Liverpool, which ordinarily is a massive worldwide brand. Would Liverpool sacrifice all that goodwill because of the antics of one player, who probably was not even born by the time the legendary English club was establishing itself, as one of the world's superpowers in club football, and winning a record 18th English League title' Could Liverpool run the risk of being tagged a racist club, on account of Suarez being treated with kid gloves'The Uruguayan is obviously giving the club a negative image and drawing it into needless controversy, a fact that prompted the management of Standard Chartered, one of the biggest sponsors of to go public, saying, 'we were very disappointed by Saturday's incident and have discussed our concerns with the club.'Liverpool's major shirt-sponsors who dole out 32 million annually in sponsorship, and another sponsor, Fenway Sports Group, have expressed their worry on how much Liverpool's international brand has been negatively affected by the Suarez episode.'What has been happening in the Suarez case is a PR disaster for Liverpool,' a die-hard fan of Liverpool said after Saturday's match.The club owes a duty to treat the Suarez saga more firmly, instead of impressing that any one player is bigger than the club. Suarez is proving to be an unrepentant racist by his recent actions. The club should find a way to reform him and prevent his attitude from adversely affecting other players and the club's reputation.In the words of Hugh Robertson, 'racism simply has no part to play in sport whatsoever, and anybody who indulges in it, either by accident, or on purpose, deserves to face as strong as possible recrimination.'We note the consistency of the English FA, and hope the body and other governing bodies around the world will continue to attack any form of racism head-on, till the menace disappears completely.
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