What’s the saying about being in a hole and stopping digging? I wonder if it translates into Spanish? It seems that what is deemed acceptable behaviour by most doesn’t translate into the world Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s Uruguay international footballer, lives in.
Just before Christmas Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, the Manchester United captain, and banned for 8 games. His defence had been that, while he accepted he had said certain things to Evra, where he comes from what he said isn’t abuse. This sparked a level of sympathy with some and led to Liverpool stating that they still believed their player was innocent. However, no appeal to the ban was forth-coming. A further twist in this sorry affair was that Evra also admitted to abusing Suarez but his abuse was, it appears, not the kind which warrants censure from the Football Association. All very messy and not what English football’s most intense rivalry required.
Now, fast-forward into 2012, and Suarez returns to the Liverpool team on Saturday against, you’ve guessed it, Manchester United. As is now customary, in a bid to communicate fair play, the two teams lined up to shake hands before kick-off only for Suarez to refuse to shake Evra’s hand. The faux chivalry of two teams being told to shake each other’s hand does not excuse the snub dished out by Suarez. It actually makes his stupidity even worse.
Here was an opportunity, designed by the very people who had punished him, for Suarez to draw a line under the row and move on. Put aside his grievances and be a man. Wait to make his point on the field of play. Sadly he decided he couldn’t do that and, instead, removed the doubt from the minds of those who had previously thought he’d been unlucky to receive such a lengthy ban based on one man’s word against another’s.
Footballer’s specifically, but sporting stars more generally, need to understand their huge influence and start using it more wisely. From young boys watching at home, to the men stood inside Old Trafford who could have been moved to violence by this incident, via a wider need for strong positive role models in today’s society, a simple handshake can mean and communicate a great deal.
His standing in world football has been badly diminished, as has that of his club to the millions watching this game around the world. 24 hours later he has apologised to his teammates, his manager and to Liverpool FC. These words, appear contrite, but are like closing the stable door after the caballo has bolted. This is why Luis Suarez is my Mis Communicator of the Week.