If Anyone's Talking About Stuff That Isn't Suarez We Haven't Seen It

luis suarez racism suarezgate

There was a match the other day. After the first twenty minutes it mostly wasn't a very interesting match. Unless perhaps you're the sort who finds joy in dull performances and endless reminders that it isn't 2009 any more and that this Liverpool side isn't big on pulling out points that seemed long gone when injury time started. What that means in the aftermath is that instead of tactics and stats, about the only subject out there that anybody seems to care about is that one. So. At least there's something to talk about?

Onwards to that subject, then, and to Kenny Dalglish and the Liverpool players all wearing shirts with Suarez' image on the front and number on the back before Wednesday's match against Wigan. This was, without exaggeration or hyperbole, the most shameful and misguided thing any collection of people anywhere has ever done. In fact there's a tribunal set to take place in the Hague early in the new year that will attempt to find some measure of justice for all the poor, impressionable sorts who were forced to witness the depravity. Or at least you would assume that's what the future holds if you paid attention to the London press and former Manchester United player Paul McGrath:

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.

It's about respect. There's this issue going on about respecting your opponents. It is actually a game. The game itself has gone too big, it's about winning and the money. The actual element of football being a game has long since gone, it is all about protecting your interest, protecting your best players. There are a lot of children that watch these games and to have done what they did last night, doing their warm-up in T-shirts with his smiling face on it, having just been done for a supposedly racist comment to one of his opponents, is shameful for football. It puts the anti-racism campaign back to the beginning as far as I'm concerned.

If I was in Glen Johnson's situation, I'd have thrown the shirt to the floor. 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.

Strong words from a man on a soapbox to dwarf the Tower of Babel, because if Paul McGarth doesn't think of the children, why, who else will? Though they are probably the kinds of words one probably shouldn't say if they've said or done anything questionable in the past when it comes to racism and racist comments. Which—quelle surprise—is just the sort of past McGarth happens to have had, having spent time at Aston Villa under manager Ron Atkinson, a man who during training often called his black players "coons" and who on one occasion was recorded referring to Chelsea's Marcel Desailly as a "fucking lazy big n**er."

While it's important to note that McGarth did not condone Atkinson's remarks about Desailly, following the incident in question McGrath took pains to call his former manager an inspiration to black players, a man who always treated him "brilliantly," and a man that in spite of what he might have said was anything but racist.

Now, of course, McGrath is happy to go on television and call out Liverpool's Glen Johnson for supporting Suarez in a case where the only confirmed use of questionable language pales to the point of transparency in comparison to that of the manager McGrath thought so highly of back in his playing days. Unsurprisingly, Johnson's reaction on Twitter to the minor brouhaha was annoyed and dismissive, and far more polite than McGarth deserved for his condescending, hypocritical, opportunistic hand-wringing.

*

Elsewhere in talk about that subject, following yesterday's collective statement from Liverpool's players, Pepe Reina has publicly come out in support of Suarez following the media backlash following the support Liverpool's players showed to a teammate they felt had been punished disproportionately in comparison to the crimes he was accused of:

We are all right behind him. He has our full support. We made a statement earlier and we said what we thought was the truth. We were together from the very first minute and it is the minimum we can do for him.

He is not racist. I am 100% [certain] he is not racist and he has been accused of racism. We showed our support to Luis. We want him and everyone to know we are right behind our team-mate because he is a lovely guy and he has been crucified by some people and it is not fair. Eight games is not even close to be fair.

We may still not actually know the full rationale behind the panel's findings, or whether it is in fact only those things that are currently known that are the basis for Suarez' punishment, but until the full facts are known it hardly seems a disgrace that Suarez' teammates would embrace the best possible reading of events as they currently stand. Unless of course you work for the Daily Mirror, in which case branding Suarez a racist in 732 point font and tut-tutting in mock sadness at players like Reina and Johnson showing their support for a teammate in a case that still seems far from fully clear is par for the course.

But it's not just Liverpool's current players who have spoken about that subject recently, with former Liverpool winger John Barnes sharing his belief that the Suarez ruling goes too far:

As much as we will say that ignorance is no excuse, ignorance is an excuse. Twenty years ago in England, the same people in England now condemning him were ignorant as to what racism is. Why don't they condemn themselves?

When Manchester United play Liverpool and 10,000 United fans are saying 'you Scouse thieves', I'd like them all to be banned. So where are we going to draw the line? Racism has to be zero tolerance but this is now a witch hunt.

Considering the glee with which so many outlets have embraced recent developments in the Suarez case, witch hunt doesn't seem an entirely misplaced label. Though in any case the hypocrisy of many of those gleefully commenting on how unforgivably terrible Suarez is even before the FA has released the details justifying their ruling is hardly a surprise, as Rory Smith talks about on the Anfield Wrap when discussing the rampant hypocrisy found surrounding the game, many of those who cover it, and often the country as a whole.

As he argues it, this is a hypocrisy inherent in a nation that prides itself on actively seeking to stamp out racism yet which at times is happy to engage in xenophobia with little concern for the similar damages it can do, while all along being convinced of the high-minded, unquestionable moral superiority in their actions. It is a hypocrisy inherent in a press that, in the name of their nation and its history, derided and attacked FIFA for resisting their attempts to have the national team display poppies in a friendly against Spain only to then become outraged that Argentina would dare to seek to wear a badge commemorating the Falklands, as though it is only the English press who are worthy arbiters of which causes and conflicts are right and good and just enough to deserve a commemorative crest.

It is also the same press, he says, that so easily screams and rends and whips itself into a frenzy when some clueless vacationer finds himself jailed in a foreign country for breaking a law that doesn't exist in England while so quickly turning their collective noses up at the mere suggestion that cultural differences could offer the slightest mitigating factor in the Suarez case.

And, of course, it's that press that today ran headlines like the Guardian's Never-say-die John Terry ignores brickbats and does what he does best following a strong showing by the Chelsea defender who was recently charged by the police with language inciting racism. The body of the article on Terry may not be nearly as glowing as the headline, but compared to their two most recent stories on Luis Suarez—stories whose headlines contained words like "shameful" and "distasteful"—the editorial bent on display in the choice of headline is crystal clear even if the individual authors aren't always in complete lockstep.

But if Suarez is a villain—and the bulk of the English press certainly seems certain of it—then at least it's comforting to know that there are people out there concerned about society, and progress, and equality. And also the future. And the children. Because those poor impressionable things could get the wrong idea if the gatekeepers in the press don't look out for them.

And so we still don't really have any of the answers, but an awful lot of people have been doing an awful lot of mostly foolish talking about things that in reality they know very little about. Try not to let them completely ruin your Christmas if you celebrate it, and your weekend if you don't.

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