We often hear about how Premier League footballers are “role models” of one form or another; can we trace the haemorrhaging of grass roots level referees back to the constant berating and almost physical intimidation of top flight refs by top flight players? Quite possibly. How about the sneering, overly-physical, borderline psychotic behaviour of many players down the local Goals 5-a-side league? Almost certainly.
This season, the bar has been set lower than before. First of all, Luis Suárez racially abused Patrice Evra on the 15th of October. What followed was one of the most undignified, obstinate, and petulant attempts at face-saving by Liverpool FC, who throughout the whole sorry affair, have behaved like a smacked toddler caught raiding the biscuit tin, endlessly crying and wailing to the point where they’re not even sure why they were doing it in the first place.
I would not begrudge any employer sticking up for their charge during a particularly difficult time. However all sense of reason seems to have left Kenny Dalglish when it comes to Suárez-gate, who has (publicly, at least) refused to entertain any notion that his man may have done wrong. After Liverpool’s 0-0 stalemate with Tottenham last night, Dalglish said “He should never have been banned in the first place.” At this point he is veering away from Siege-Mentality and heading straight for Plain Ridiculous.
Ragardless of Dalglish’s personal feelings on the matter, it is unfathomable that he is unable to see the negative effect his attitude is having on some sections of the Liverpool support. The situation of a player being booed by fans because he has been the victim of proven racial abuse by a player on their team is beyond the pale, beyond pathetic. It really makes you question just how far we have evolved as a species that the attitude of a few men can lead to such tribal pertinaciousness among the rank and file. Evra was booed by a significant amount of Liverpool fans during their FA cup tie with Man Utd because he refused to meekly accept the abuse dished out by Suárez. If Dalglish and Liverpool had behaved with any sort of decorum, common sense or attitude towards conciliation, this situation would never have arisen.
In a similar vein, Rio Ferdinand was roundly booed by a good number of the Stamford Bridge faithful on Sunday during Man Utd’s 3-3 draw with Chelsea. The unflappable logic behind it, of course, was down to him being the brother of man allegedly called a “fucking black c**t” by the Chelsea captain John Terry. Take that, common sense! What is most staggering is that these people are able to dress themselves in the morning.
It is a truly depressing state of affairs that racism and racist abuse of players has not merely crept back in to the game, but has walked into its front room and sat in the armchair without anyone batting an eyelid. Liverpool wearing Suarez T-shirts is tantamount to an admission that Suárez making racist comments is ok and that he could it again for all they care. Dalglish continuing to maintain the innocence of a man found guilty is only making matters worse.
Instead of fostering such a truculent attitude, Liverpool could have sent a clear message against racism by doubling Suárez’s fine, accepting the punishment and keeping schtum. Instead they continue stoke the fires of hatred by backing to the hilt and extolling the virtues of one the most odious characters in recent memory. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, and it won’t get better until clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea start acknowledging that some of their players aren’t reincarnations of Mother Teresa.