Liverpool striker and Uruguayan international Luis Suárez (which I’m guessing is an Anglicized version of Suaréz, i.e. Suar-EZ) finds himself at the mercy of the English Football Association over accusations made by Manchester United’s Patrice Evra that he used racially charged insults during a match between the two clubs at Anfield in mid-October.
Evra told the French TV station Canal Plus that Suárez had used a racist insult to him “at least 10 times” during the match, saying that the camera had assuredly captured these instances.
Suárez, for this part, also went to the media, telling the Uruguayan press:
“There is no evidence I said anything racist to him. I said nothing of the sort. There were two parts of the discussion – one in Spanish, one in English. I did not insult him. It was just a way of expressing myself. I called him something his team-mates at Manchester call him, and even they were surprised by his reaction.”
During his defense appeal, which began yesterday, Suárez did admit to using the term “negro” one time, while also claiming that such a qualifier would not necessarily be considered racist in his home country.
On this particular point I am forced to give Suárez the benefit of the doubt. Having spent time in Central America and having worked closely with Spanish-speaking youth here in Austin, most of whom have families in Mexico, I can attest that in many Hispanic/Latin American communities, people use words we would describe as insults as neutral descriptors or even as terms of endearment.
When I stayed in Nicaragua I met a man everyone in the community called “Chino”—because his eyes were slightly narrow like someone from China, they told me. Chino didn’t seem offended by this term at all, and in fact used it to gain some status as a local celebrity of sorts.
Of course, he might not have been offended since he wasn’t in fact Chinese, and nor were there any Chinese people living in that particular area. In Evra’s case, however, he is Black and there are several other Black players in the Premier League.
The issue is perhaps a little closer to home. As many have pointed out, it matters little what the culture is like in Uruguay; these games are being played in England.
Another difference in Chino’s case is that Chino wasn’t very offended by the epithet. He had always been called that name growing up and had accepted if not embraced it. If he had been offended, his neighbors would have (hopefully) apologized and chosen a different name for him. In the Suárez-Evra debate, it’s frankly not up to Suárez to decide if Evra should take offense.
Evra thinks the names are racist, so they’re racist.
Evra, of course, could just be making a bigger fuss than he needs to in order to throw a distracting hurdle into the path of Suárez and, by extension, Liverpool. And there’s nothing FIFA likes more than a soap opera. But I highly doubt this scenario, since Evra too has to stand “trial” in the hearing, and besides, he did report his claim to the FA immediately following the match in question.
The accusations he’s making sound serious enough, and I certainly hope he’s not presenting them with ulterior motives.
FA’s ruling on the debate is scheduled to be announced on Friday. If found guilty of using insults referring to Evra’s “ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race,” Suárez could be suspended, fined, or both.
I believe that he’s telling the truth about not understanding that his insults were racist, but unfortunately for Suárez, the power to make that determination, like in every case, falls to the person being insulted.
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