Time for some silence after Suarez saga
Posted Sunday, February 19 2012 at 19:16
When I was 17, I drove up to the Isle of Skye in the north of Scotland for a week. It was a long way, so I stopped overnight at a small hotel south of Glasgow.
The next morning at breakfast, there were two other guests, a middle aged couple.
We engaged in polite conversation: it turned out they were Americans, visiting the United Kingdom to watch the golf Open Championship then taking place nearby.
I asked them if they noticed any difference between the place they were visiting and their home country.
There’s only one thing, the man replied: you’re lucky, you don’t have any blacks.
My jaw hit the floor and I was struck dumb. Eventually I fumbled some closing words and left the breakfast table.
Later that day, and ever since, I wish I’d been smart enough to say something in response to this stranger’s outrageous and offensive remark. But I was silent.
It’s now many years later but prejudice still rears its head and it hasn’t got any less ugly. And there seems no simple way of resolving it: people’s behaviour and words just won’t let things calm down.
Last week’s Premiership game between Manchester United and Liverpool was a perfect opportunity to have a new beginning.
It’s hard to describe the ill-feeling that exist anyway between England’s two most successful clubs, and the words which everyone now knows were spoken by Luis Suarez to Patrice Evra last autumn in the return fixture at Anfield have only made the situation worse.
Suarez’ subsequent eight-match ban was a rare sign that the Football Association took this seriously.
Whether or not Liverpool agreed with the punishment, the message could hardly have been clearer.
Suarez’ conduct was not to be condoned.
And Suarez’ second game back after serving his suspension was the ideal opportunity to start afresh.
The first meeting between the two players was before kick off when the traditional handshake between the opposing sides on the pitch took place.
Or in this case, it didn’t. Evra offered his hand, Suarez refused, unleashing a chain of events that has been very bad for football.
First Rio Ferdinand, understandably, refused Suarez hand. Symbolically, the ideas that football players respect each other and treat each other fairly had already gone and Ferdinand was merely articulating that fact.