The manner in which Liverpool dealt with the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra incident has drawn criticism from most quarters. Including this one…
Last week I wrote about the tribal nature of English football fans and the negative effect that a pack mentality can have.
The behaviour of the angry Blackburn supporters protesting against their own club illustrated how fans’ actions can sometimes be unconstructive to their team. The Luis Suarez affair demonstrates how the opposite can take place.
For anybody who has missed it, Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez (he of the handball-on-the-line at the World Cup and biting-an-opponent-while-at-Ajax infamy) is currently suspended for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra back in October.
The incident and his unprecedented eight-match ban is in itself is a big enough talking point, but the reaction of his club, and consequently some of their fans, has ensured that the issue has not been out of the news for weeks.
The first strange move by Liverpool was the decision of manager Kenny Dalglish and the entire squad to wear t-shirts in support of Suarez during the warm-up ahead of their match against Wigan Athletic – the first game since his suspension had been handed down.
Former United defender Paul McGrath was one of the most critical of that show of support.
“If that had been someone in my time and I’d heard the comments or I’d even suspected he was guilty, and obviously there has been a tribunal, then I would not wear a T-shirt with his name on it, saying all is well and good here,” he was quoted as saying in The Telegraph.
“Maybe Kenny [Dalglish] is trying to make a statement to the FA but I just think it is in bad taste that he sent them out in those T-shirts. It would have been much better for Liverpool Football Club if they had have worn anti-racism shirts.”
Closing ranks in such a manner is not a new way for a football club to respond, but the decision to make such an aggressive stand in defence of Suarez after he had been found guilty of referring to Evra in the most derogatory of terms was very bizarre.
The executive director of European football’s anti-discrimination body Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) was also far from impressed by the club’s conduct.
“Liverpool have been too keen to support their man and in doing so have whipped up a sense of paranoia amongst their fans,” Piara Powar said.
“The responses from Kenny Dalglish have been undignified, the way in which they have dealt with the whole matter has been unprofessional.
“For the club to so aggressively militate against what looks to most people is a considered judgement from the FA leads to a potential for anarchy.”
These comments were sadly proven to be spot on.
While I hesitate to consider comments on Twitter as a fair representation (how many people who hurl vitriol via an ‘@’ alias would do the same when stood face-to-face with the person they are abusing?), several Liverpool supporters first took to the internet to abuse Evra racially.
Then Oldham Athletic’s Tom Adeyemi was reduced to tears during his side’s FA Cup 3rd round game against Liverpool after receiving racist taunts from the Kop.
Did the club’s reaction to the initial incident lead to this second offence? In my opinion, almost certainly yes.
An ‘us’ and ‘them’ was created, and the mindless idiots who genuinely believe that the colour of someone’s skin matters felt that they had been given an opportunity to air their pathetic views.
If the club had instead apologised – and, for what it’s worth, I don’t think Suarez is racist, just stupid – and accepted the punishment quietly then the matter would have been far easier to move on from. By casting doubt over Evra’s claims and acting in such an undignified and aggressive manner they did nothing to help the matter.
Their response to the second incident has been much more productive, and the idiot responsible is facing a lifetime ban and criminal charges.
While they will be hoping that this reaction has not been too little too late, with Suarez’s potential first away game back in the side set to come away to United on February 11th it looks highly unlikely that things will settle down for some time yet.