The Luis Suarez racism debacle rolls on. Respected journalist, and La Liga correspondent, Sid Lowe took to Twitter to engage and answer a deluge of damning criticism over his interview with Suarez published this morning by The Guardian. The controversy grew from a small section of the piece that sought to briefly reference the Uruguayan’s on-field abuse of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. Unfortunately, the popular writer stumbled upon two contentious and rather misleading points that could be read as a doubting of the intent of the Liverpool player’s actions and his guilty verdict.
Lowe’s initial response was understandably reactive, challenging his challengers over their potential bias and the sad state of affairs in which important issues quickly become divided over club allegiances rather than reason and the matter of what’s right. These exchanges quickly grew far more insightful and engaging however and the ensuing debate was positive, productive and civilised – a refreshing change to the usual flame wars and abuse spewed over the social network. It was clear that the writer, whose work is regular featured in the very best football publications and sites around, had no intention to defend the actions of Suarez or question the verdict. Instead, he had sought, through his interview, to cover the player’s background, personality and hyper-competitive nature to explain rather than excuse the incident and its fall out.
Check out Sid Lowe’s Twitter feed here to read the writer’s exchanges with his critics.
My problem with Lowe’s handling of the affair in his piece was that it could have been referenced without throwing potential doubts over the issue. The phrasing of his words unfortunately offers opportunity and a cut-and-paste vindication for the scouse lunatic fringe who hardly need any fresh encouragement to push the agenda against Evra and Suarez verdict anew. He also mentioned that no solid lip reading evidence could be placed against Suarez, although this was due to the lack of clear camera angles and is ultimately irrelevant since the player admitted to saying the words himself when interviewed anyway.
For what its worth, at no point during or after the event did I think that Luis Suarez was a racist, but rather that the Uruguayan was overly competitive in a ruthless and reckless manner. This is a feature of his play on the pitch – he’ll fight and tussle for every single inch of the match and bead of sweat from his brow – but it doesn’t excuse his racial opportunism to try and gain an edge over Evra.
Suarez’s excuse, that he’d said negrito, negro or a similar Latin slang derivative, in a conciliatory way – a claim supposedly backed up by the benign meanings of such terms back in South America – was always ridiculous. Throughout the offending fixture last October, both players were at each other’s throats well before Suarez skin colour referencing outburst – snarling and barging into each other and generally behaving aggressively and confrontational. Are we still expected to believe that in such a combative atmosphere, Suarez turned to the Frenchman and used a Uruguayan colloquialism in a friendly, mollifying way?
As I said above, to me, Suarez is a player whose intensity and genius skirts at the very edges of the game’s competitive and ethical edge. With Evra he over stepped the mark. Regardless of social norms in Uruguay, in the UK, is it ever advisable, let alone acceptable, to reference someone’s skin? Especially someone who is a non-acquaintance and adversary?
Sid Lowe is guilty only of implicitly mentioning Suarez’s beyond-the-pale and on-the-pitch hyper-competitive nature rather than explicitly linking it to his racial outburst. This naivety in unintentionally giving Suarez’s side of the argument some unnecessary wiggle room can be put down to a courtesy between interviewer to interviewee to preface the issue on his terms rather than a sign that Sid is a member of the worryingly unhinged minority of Liverpool FC’s fanbase.
Although the Evra-Suarez reference is unfortunate, the rest of Lowe’s interview is well worth a read. Click here to head over to The Guardian now to hear Suarez’s take on his background, opinion on Rodger’s coaching methods and English football in general.
For a more extensive and forensic overview of the FA report, evidence and context of the Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra incident and its fall out, read The Ministry Of Truth.