Chewing out

Luis Suarez once again finds himself at the centre of a controversy which, the majority of pundits seem to be under the impression, should earn him a lengthy ban and begin the end of his time on Merseyside. Isn’t it time for consistent action regardless of nationality in these incidents?

The striker’s decision to bite Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanović in the game is punishable both internally and externally to football. Let’s be clear, this was a (poor) decision Suarez made. If you bite someone there is thought and effort applied to your actions. The actions of the footballer in the case are indefensible, but what is inexcusable is the frequency with which bile is spouted in Suarez’s direction.

Suarez certainly appears to be a poorly guided individual, but this is a trope of modern footballers. So why does Suarez attract the attention he does? Media outlets, and fans, need a pantomime villain, and Suarez is capable of rewarding these desires.

However, this doesn’t quite seem to bridge the gap between conjecture and reality. So why does Suarez receive special attention? Plenty are deviant, and flout the rules on a regular basis.

Simply put, the reason Suarez receives this attention is his nationality. His foreignness makes him a target, and makes him more susceptible to criticism than a clutch of British players who could be accused of a number of social and sporting crimes. Regardless of what might be said, this form of racism is still rife at the heart of football.

Giggs, Rooney, Terry and Gerrard have all committed offences which are worthy of significant, and prolonged, attention, but their nationalities insulate them from the attention other (foreign) players are subjected to.

Despite their actions, these crimes are forgotten over a misguided idea these players are one of us, British, and as such aren’t liable to commit these social and sporting offences again.

To illustrate this point let’s move away from Suarez to his South American compatriot, Sergio Aguero. The Manchester City striker was involved in a two-footed challenge on David Luiz in last weekend’s FA Cup Semi-Final. The furore was great, and once again the lack of retrospective action was bemoaned.

To compare I would like to take us back to April 1998 and Filbert Street. Alan Shearer, the now banal Match of the Day pundit, was plying his trade for Newcastle against Leicester. The England striker was involved in a challenge near the touch-line. This challenge culminated in Shearer stamping on the head of Leicester’s Neil Lennon.

The reaction from press and fans was one of dismay at the suggestion Shearer could receive punishment which would rule him out of England’s campaign in France. There was a concerted effort to downplay the incident because he was a good Englishman, and excuses were found to support this notion.

People might argue the Shearer example is out-of-date, but I’m convinced the same logic still prevails. When we juxtapose the Jermaine Defoe example with Suarez’s case. The England striker was involved in a remarkably similar incident with Argentinian midfielder, Javier Mascherano, and the same will to prosecute was sorely lacking.

No one should excuse Suarez’s actions. They were was distasteful, and shouldn’t happen between peers in any line of work. Liverpool have acted quickly to issue an apology, and hopefully internal club policies will be enacted to make sure the player is made aware his behaviour was unacceptable, and shouldn’t happen again.

What needs to happen externally is consistent action, and reaction, to these incidents regardless of nationality. When the FA issue the ‘extraordinary incident’ card because of the furore surrounding this case, we will have to consider why this has happened for Suarez and not others in relation to retrospective action. Defoe, for example, received a yellow card and the FA accepted the referees report without feeling the need to enact the extraordinary incident clause.

As the examples I’ve chosen here show, the consistency I am calling for is still sorely lacking both from the FA, press and fans.

Update:

21/04/2013: Suarez has issued a verbal apology to Branislav Ivanović, and Liverpool Football Club have fined the player. It is understood the fine will be donated to the Hillsbrough Family Support Group.

24/04/2012: Ivanovic rejects apology. The FA suspend Suarez for ten games with written reasons and appeal pending.

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