by Orville Higgins
Virtually everyone in the football world is talking about the eight-match ban given to Liverpool's Luis Suarez based on a so-called racial insult of Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Depending on which website you surf, Suarez was supposed to have called him a negrite, a Spanish word meaning 'little Negro', or actually used the word 'Negro' itself.
I find the whole thing preposterous. Is the word 'Negro' now also taboo on a football field?
Isn't Evra a Negro? I checked my dictionary and found out that 'Negro' was a legitimate word, which means a member of the dominant ethnic group of Africa. Or a black male or female.
One school of thought is that this is nothing more than the English FA trying to embarrass Sepp Blatter, the FIFA president. Blatter had said that a lot of these so-called on-field racist comments could be settled with a handshake. The statement triggered a huge backlash, especially among the English population, and the theory is that the English FA is doing this to show Blatter how different they are from him.
Whether or not that's true, it's nonsense to impose a charge of £40,000 and an eight-match ban to call a Negro a Negro!
Evra doesn't appear to me to be the most credible of witnesses either. He said he was called this name by Suarez at least 10 different times. Ten times! Nobody else can corroborate the story. It is mind-boggling that a player can say something to another player 10 times without anybody hearing.
We must not forget that in 2008 the French defender was banned for four games after hitting a Chelsea groundsman after a game. Then, too, he had said he was racially abused by the groundsman. The English FA didn't find any such evidence then. Indeed, when handing down the ban, the English FA had said Evra's evidence was exaggerated and unreliable.
Was Evra's credibility taken into question? And how did Evra keep count? Ten sounds like such a round, convenient number, doesn't it?
It would have been more plausible if he had said nine or 11. The umpires in cricket once used stones or marbles to check deliveries, and sometimes even they got it wrong. Maybe Evra had walked with his marbles.
Suarez said he made the remark once when the two were jostling around in the box for a corner, and his story just sounds more credible to me. The two were close-marking each other for the whole game. Evra was even booked. Yet, he waited until after the game to tell the ref what the real deal was. Please!
In his statement to the FA, we heard that Evra said he didn't believe that Suarez was a racist. The English FA also said it wasn't of that view. So why then would Evra or the FA have a problem with Suarez's use of the N-word? If Evra doesn't believe Suarez is racist, how come a standard word has become racist?
Follow me now. Can a black man be accused of racially abusing another black man? Highly unlikely, because people would say that a black man couldn't mean anything derogatory when he uses that term to another black man.
And for the record, Suarez's grandfather is black.
The English FA and Evra are making much ado about nothing.
Orville Higgins is the 2011 winner of the Hugh Crosskill/Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Reporting. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.