Suarez Racial Controversy Shakes Soccer

February 20, 2012


Sports and controversy go hand in hand. Across athletics, there have always been polarizing figures and/or sport-scarring incidents. In England, premier league football is going through its own storm: not only is it a question of respect, but also of where the sport will go next. There is one man at the center of this controversy, whose entire career has been marred with scandal—Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez.

Let’s look at the incident at hand. On October 15, 2011, during a match between Liverpool and arch-rival Manchester United, the 25-year-old Suarez reported racially abused French defender Patrice Evra multiple times during the span of the match, by calling him a “negro”, which in Uruguay is considered a term of endearment. Either way, the incident was reported to the league’s governing body, the Football Association, and a month later, Suarez was suspended for eight matches due to a charge of  “abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour contrary to FA rules.”

Now, this could have been the end of it. But when the two teams met again on Feburary 11, during the customary handshake, Suarez blatantly avoided shaking hands with Evra, even after being grabbed by the defender. Days after the incident, Suarez apologized, after being forced to by an unnamed team sponsor. However, this episode is the pinnacle of controversy in the star striker’s career.

One of the game's most polarizing figures. | Photo courtesy of Badudoy via Wiki Commons.

As a youngster, he was suspended as a teenager in Uruguay after being caught drinking and partying. When he came to Europe, he showed brilliance as well as aggression. While playing in the Netherlands, Suarez was consistently a top goal-scorer, but he also would incur many yellow cards and suspensions. Need an illustration? In 2010, he bit an opponent on the shoulder during a game, leading to a fine and a seven game suspension, which was cancelled out by his 22.8-million-pound move to Liverpool F.C., where he has yet to escape problems.

Aside from his racial abuse case, Suarez has also flipped the bird to opposing fans during his time playing on the British Isle. While Suarez has apologized for these incidents, not many believe him. Pundits have asked for him to sit down with Evra and ask for forgiveness face-to-face. Some think that Liverpool should cut their ties, as this has shamed the club.  Others, mostly his teammates, manager, and countrymen, have said it should have passed by now.

However, we shouldn’t let it go, for a multitude of reasons. First, Suarez got off easy with just a fine and a suspension. There is another case involving fellow controversial footballer John Terry, but Terry’s case is going to the courts and has led to Terry being stripped of the England national side captaincy. Suarez’s case shouldn’t be blown off, either. More importantly, this should be a lesson for all players that this behavior is disrespectful and has no place in the beautiful game. It’s not just limited to soccer; racism and prejudice have no place in this world. We are all created equally and to tear one another down for skin color or background is ghastly behavior, which sets everybody back.

Now, I don’t think that Suarez is a racist, but this is still a shameful incident that shows how much he still has to grow. At the same time, he still has a lot to do to earn back the respect he had gained. He needs to stay quiet, apologize to Evra, and get it together. He has some great years ahead of him and he needs to learn from this to become a better man.

 What do you think of this incident? Should it have blown over by now?