My friend Russ Liley wrote this email that was inspired by the recent Suarez verdict. I liked it so much that I asked if I could put it on my blog.
Sadly, having played competitive football to a reasonable level for many tears I know the level of abuse and the very calculated and deliberate way that all players on the pitch set out to gain advantage over their opposite number by making them lose their cool and make poor decisions.Russ would love to hear from Brian if he is out there somewhere...
In a game you pretty much end up in a one on one situation matched up against your opposite number in the other team for 90 minutes. All premiership footballers are very intelligent and at premiership level 90% of the game is in the head, they all have skill in abundance but if they lose focus for even a second they can lose their team the game or end up getting sent off. Many players suffer from vulnerability in this matter and everyone has their trigger points. Wayne Rooney for example struggles against the red mist. There was a recent episode when his father (I think) was banged up, and Rooney played, and then you can be absolutely certain he spent the whole game getting abuse centered on that incident. This resulted in Ferguson observing that it may have been a mistake to play him as he lost focus during the game.
At the level I played at there were many incidents of this nature and whilst most of the team wouldn't even consider some levels of abuse, there were always one or two players in every team who did this, and you knew what you were going to get before the kick off, and everyone else on the pitch knew what was going on. On one occasion our centre forward announced in the pub after the game that he that knew next week’s opposition centre back had a nipple ring and that after the second corner he would have it. We all told him not to but he did it regardless and the opposition centre back spent 75 minutes trying to kick lumps out of him and they lost 5-0 with Brian scoring 4.........
In my honest opinion I believe Suarez knew what he was doing............ he will have known about the ambiguity in the usage of the word in Uruguay, depending on the way you say it, and the intent it has, it can be either acceptable to a friend, or an insult to a stranger. He will also have known the likely effect it could have on Evra.
You can also be absolutely sure that Liverpool’s sports psychologists and language teachers will have prepared him for life in the premiership and life in England. He will know what is acceptable and what isn't, he will know what gestures people find insulting, and what is going to get you banned. He will have been to classes specifically about this many many times and it will be discussed in great depth with his teammates and with the clubs coaches and psychologists. The FA itself may have issued guidelines to the clubs on what is and isn't acceptable on the field of play.
This happens at every level of life in our modern multi-cultural world, even the Spanish work experience students we get at Freeline for 3 months are given a 1 week course telling them how to behave in England and how to avoid getting beaten up in Exeter........ I can't believe football clubs do not acclimatize their players in a similar manner before they put them on the pitch.
I believe one of two things happened: either one of the various insults Evra admitted saying struck a chord with Suarez and he lost it in the heat of the moment or Suarez took a calculated risk in using the word to try and get Evra to lose it, believing he would be able to hide behind the cultural ambiguity and avoid punishment, I favor the latter but the only person who really knows is Suarez. Regardless of which of the two scenarios is true, the one thing he has shown is massive naivety in is attempting to use the excuse he has, ignorance is not a defense, and I am sure it will have been demonstrated in the hearing that he has been told that potentially racist remarks and names will not be tolerated in the UK. Sadly he has probably gotten away with this kind of behaviour in the previous leagues he has played in, all he has shown is naivety in thinking it will work here, it doesn't mean he is a bad guy it just means Liverpool have to accept they haven't prepared him properly for life in the premiership.
To be honest the only thing that surprises me is that Liverpool couldn't persuade him to make a different defense as the ignorance one had so many weaknesses that it was always going to fail. It is possible that his temperament is similar to that striker of ours 'Brian' who got so wound up about football he was sick before every game and had to get angry to get motivated......
John Terry is similar but less naive and far more deliberate, I believe JT is a nasty piece of work and he knows exactly what he is doing, he has gotten away with numerous distasteful bits of behaviour (like the rubbing gob in hair incident) without any real sanction because all of the offenses are relatively minor yet very calculated and deliberate. I am concerned he will get off with this one as I reckon he is calculating enough that he may have deliberately prefixed the racist comment with the words "I didn't say" so that he had a defense when the lip readers are called in. I really hope they throw the book at him but I fear he is a bit too canny to have gotten caught, unlike Suarez whose main error is probably being foolish enough to think he can get away with stuff that he used to in other leagues.