Can you hear me now?
Luis Suarez injected himself in the racism debate in the football world, polarized by the reaction to the acquittal of John Terry of racist abuse against Anton Ferdinand. In an interview with on Uruguayan TV, the Liverpool striker cast himself as a tragic victim in the Patrice Evra racism affair accusing Man Utd of using its special place in the sport to exert unprecedented political pressure to ensure an eight match ban. He was all prepared to shake hands with Evra but from the media reaction you wouldn’t know because only in Spain did they show the French half back deliberately lowering his hand so that Suarez would not make contact.
Not badly timed at all. It was a reminder of how Suarez was cast aside as a villain from the get go while John Terry got a chance to tell his side of the story in a court as a defense team succeeded in essentially stopping defamation of character. The public reaction was divided intensely on racial lines. In Suarez’s case, it was Liverpool driven into a cul de sac by Utd’s inexorable PR machine.
In Suarez’s interview, he actually does little to clear his name, projecting instead on the emotional toll, on how he and his wife openly wept those days, and feeling drained from his hours long testimony. But his purpose might be different. It feeds into the perception that Utd are indeed looked on differently from the authorities. There is heft to those theories, the matches prolonged by an extra 5 minutes or more to ensure a favourable result, the number of penalties that dog the opposition, the two faced reaction to a tackle. These are not systemic to the pitch, Utd’s influence extends to the public sphere, into the reaches of the higher ups, making it a political machine.
Suarez knows he will always be a central figure in the racism debate but he’s cloaking himself by casting the limelight onto a system being gamed by his powerful accusers. It might get him some measure of sympathy in England. Brendan Rodgers has taken note of these extra-ordinary charges and his reaction was not positive. The last thing he wants to do is to clean up after his predecessor. Right on cue, Sir Alex made matters worse, saying in effect that Kenny Dalglish was forced to resign in part because he continued to defend Suarez even after the non-handshake much to owner John Henry’s displeasure. We have not heard the last of it and like the Terry case, this too has no closure.