As of today, with one game of his ban served against Manchester City and the fixtures flying by fast in January, Luis Suarez is set to miss Oldham in the FA Cup, Manchester City home and away in the League Cup semi-finals, plus Stoke, Bolton, and Wolves in the league in January and the first match of February against Tottenham. If Liverpool make it past Oldham on Friday, however, they will play a second FA Cup draw in January—on Saturday the 28th—allowing Suarez to make his return against Spurs at Anfield.
Whether Suarez returns on the sixth of February or the eleventh, after a month of fighting words and combative press releases from the club, the sudden capitulation that ruled Suarez out of the Manchester City match came as something as a shock to Liverpool fans entering the new year on a high following the win against Newcastle United. And even after the match against Manchester City, the noises coming out of the club would hardly seem to suggest they agree with the outcome any more today than they did 24 hours ago, despite that they have suddenly chosen not to contest the eight match ban. Said Kenny Dalglish on the matter following yesterday's difficult loss:
I don't think we are digging a bigger hole—it is unfortunate we cannot be more forthcoming. There are a lot of things we'd like to say and a lot of things we could say but we don't want to get ourselves into trouble. We know what has gone on; we know what is not in the report and that is important for us. But without me getting myself in trouble, that is me finished.
It is unfortunate that you don't actually know the whole content of what went on at the hearing. I am not prepared and I cannot say. I cannot go any further.
Presumably there's not enough more in the story for Liverpool to believe they had any kind of chance at overcoming on appeal the FA's determination that Suarez—for right or wrong—be made an example of, but whether it's Kenny Dalglish saying it or Fernando Torres or Raul Meireles, it's growing increasingly frustrating to listen to footballers talk about how they wish the people only knew everything. But they can't talk about it. Because they're running for Prime Minister, under strict orders from the KGB, or on double secret probation.
Dalglish's talk of the whole story not being in the 115-page written report that was released while half the world was distracted by New Year's eve and the various health-damaging, life expectancy-reducing activities that go along with it, naturally follows on from official statements released by the club and Suarez. More restrained and less inflammatory compared to the aggressive salvo fired following the announcement of the original decision to ban Suarez for eight games, the club's official statement this time around took on a more resigned tone:
It is our strongly held conviction that the Football Association and the panel it selected constructed a highly subjective case against Luis Suarez based on an accusation that was ultimately unsubstantiated.
The FA and the panel chose to consistently and methodically accept and embrace arguments leading to a set of conclusions that found Mr. Suarez to "probably" be guilty while in the same manner deciding to completely dismiss the testimony that countered their overall suppositions.
Mr. Evra was deemed to be credible in spite of admitting that he himself used insulting and threatening words towards Luis and that his initial charge as to the word used was somehow a mistake.
In its determination to prove its conclusions to the public through a clearly subjective 115-page document, the FA panel has damaged the reputation of one of the Premier League's best players, deciding he should be punished and banned for perhaps a quarter of a season. This case has also provided a template in which a club's rival can bring about a significant ban for a top player without anything beyond an accusation.
All of which will ring true to anybody who has at least read sections of the FA ruling, where the panel cherry-picked from an unending sea of maybes, possiblies, and probablies, seemingly intent on reaching a pre-determined conclusion as they contorted their justifications constantly to first accept one piece of hearsay or speculation that made Suarez look worse before immediately dismissing a similar piece of information that might have made him look better.
Which of course only leaves one wondering why the club has now decided to simply let the matter rest. Perhaps they feel they can only make matters worse continuing to push against a governing body that has decided to use Suarez to draw a symbolic line in the sand while allowing all the members of their old boys' club—both the FA's and the old guard in the London Press—to pat themselves on the back and feel superior to FIFA and the poor benighted souls who live their lives every day beyond England's shores. Or Perhaps they instead have concluded that earlier poor showings by the club's legal and PR departments in dealing with the case and its outcome have backed them into a corner from which any further fighting would only make matters worse. Either way—any way—they've decided to both end the fight and to continue to insist that nothing about the case, from the process through to the result over two months after the incident, was in any way fair or just.
Which from a fan's perspective is just horribly depressing no matter how you come at it. And when it comes to the crush of depressed resignation, Suarez' written statement on the matter—released in the hours leading up to yesterday's match against Manchester City—positively drips with it:
I am very upset by all the things which have been said during the last few weeks about me, all of them being very far from the truth. But above all, I'm very upset at feeling so powerless whilst being accused of something which I did not, nor would not, ever do.
In my country, 'negro' is a word we use commonly, a word which doesn't show any lack of respect and is even less so a form of racist abuse. Based on this, everything which has been said so far is totally false.
I will carry out the suspension with the resignation of someone who hasn't done anything wrong and who feels extremely upset by the events. I do feel sorry for the fans and for my team mates whom I will not be able to help during the next month. It will be a very difficult time for me.
The only thing I wish for at the moment is being able to run out again at Anfield and to do what I like most which is playing football.
Right. So. Happy New Year, everybody?
Unsurprisingly, while the club was grumbling to anyone who would listen that the result was unfair even though they wouldn't fight it, members of the old boys' club were in fact quite literally—in a figurative sort of way—slapping themselves on the back for being so enlightened and superior to FIFA, Sepp Blatter, and said boor benighted souls not under the Queen's benevolent rule. Amongst the celebrants, PFA chief Gordon Taylor was in a particularly self-congratulatory mood following Liverpool's decision to kinda sorta we don't want to but okay fine accept the ban:
We want our black players to feel comfortable that racism can be dealt with in football terms, as well as the law of the land. Some issues are bigger than a player, the club or the game and racism is one of those. We have to learn from it and there should be no misunderstanding or ambiguity in the future.
You don't want such issues to divide clubs or society. We're all in a football family but we're all under the law of the land. Once a penalty has been paid and carried out we move on in a positive manner to make sure the penalty acts as a deterrent. The educational process continues.
We've treated it a lot more seriously than [Blatter suggesting racism should be settled on the pitch with a handshake]. Racism is a serious issue. There was a big court case which proved that and we want sport to set the best possible example. I was disappointed after Sepp Blatter's comment but there wasn't the same outcry in the rest of the world.
We all know the word 'negro' can be taken to mean a very inflammatory word. Any reference to the colour of a person's skin has to be eradicated. In the heat of battle things can be said, but sometimes they go beyond what's acceptable. We have had 20 or 30 years of campaigning against racism. I hope we can move on from this and learn our lessons.
Obviously some of what Taylor says is eminently sensible and hard to argue against when looking at the larger picture, but anything good and sensible that he might have to say is completely undercut by the condescending, jingoistic talk of the rest of the world as though it is only England and the English amongst the globe's seven billion who are truly enlightened, leading the charge for equality and puppies and sunshine and a utopian post-scarcity future. He talks of stamping out racism, yet there is a subtle and unspoken racism at the very core of every word he says—and he's either completely lacking in self-awareness or just too busy feeling proud to notice it.
Disappointingly, too, is the apparent confirmation that those driving the Suarez case—as well as those gleefully reporting on it—were never content to judge the matter on its own merits. Instead, it was inextricably tied all along to a desire by both a nation and its football regulating body to show that they were morally superior to Sepp Blatter and FIFA. It's a confirmation that does a disservice to every high minded ideal that Taylor proudly boasts has been moved forward by the results of the case.
It's a sad, pathetic whimper of a way to end what has been a depressing mess full of bangs and bluster, and no matter which direction one might have come at it from or where the still largely unknown truth of the matter may lie, the reality is that there remains no real and meaningful resolution to be found for anybody in its apparent conclusion.