Lack of cultural awareness no excuse for Suarez

by Charlie Coffey

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The Uruguayan outrage at Luis Suarez’s eight-game ban proves just how far they are behind England in eradicating racism.
Suarez is alleged to have called Patrice Evra a Negro during Liverpool’s game against Manchester United on 15th October. He and his fellow countrymen claim that the term is not offensive when used in Uruguay. The country’s top national newspaper, El Pais, has accused the English of hypocrisy against a nation that fielded their first black player in their national side in 1916, 62 years before Viv Anderson pulled on the three lions.

If Negro is a friendly phrase, why did Suarez use it repeatedly against an opponent in the heated atmosphere of such a traditionally terse football match? It is unlikely he was trying to befriend Patrice Evra. After he first used it, it is almost certain that such a prickly character as Evra would have reacted badly. So Suarez would have known, in the unlikely case he didn’t before, that he was causing offense.

Although Uruguay may have had black players representing their country for almost a century, their continued use of such words to describe black people shows that their country still sees race as an issue worth referencing. In the 1950’s Uruguay had a black captain who was known as “El Negro Jefe” – The Black Boss. As recently as 1995 in England, Andy Cole was affectionately known as ‘Our Blackie’ by Newcastle United fans.

Since that time the Kick Racism out of Football campaign has very nearly ensured that all racism, including the use of words with racial connotations whether used affectionately or not, have been eradicated from the English game. Although racism may exist in some form within the general English public, English football, with the huge amount of publicity it holds and its influence on children, is heralded as a flagship in the battle against any form of racial prejudice.

In Uruguay, Benfica player Maxi Pereira is still referred to affectionately as ‘El Mono’ – The Monkey, by his team-mates, and this is apparently ok with him. It seems Uruguay is at roughly the social equivalent of England back in 1995.

Luis Suarez left Uruguay six years ago. He played in the Netherlands, a country which has to be among the most racially diverse and integrated in the world, and now lives in England. If he doesn’t know the difference between the social etiquette of these various cultures, then that is his problem. That’s if you believe that a man who once bit someone on the neck during a football match was trying to be affectionate to an opponent by calling him a Negro.

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  • swiller

    Have you read the full report? If not how is you can comment on what was said? Evra states the Suarez used the word 10 times but Suarez claims that he used it 1 time. Unless you have read the report how can know if there is evidence either way. If there is no other evidence then you are just any person jumping on the bandwagon and shows your ignorance.

  • Chris Aspinall

    But when Gillian Gibbons called that bear Muhammad, or those two people where caught having sex on a beach Dubai, cultural differences and general unawareness were excuses? Classic scapegoating if ever I’ve seen it. Let’s fine all the people who called Benitez a ‘Fat Spanish Waiter’ for all those years then, because the cultural stereotyping – otherwise known as casual racism on a grand scale. Or cut calling people blondie, or ginger, out – because that’s discriminating against a natural, physical feature aswell. So ridiculous the baseless vilification of Suarez

  • charlie

    Why does it matter how many times he said it?!

  • Paulo

    This is, once again, a classic example of the way in which Western Law, particularly in Anglo Saxon societies, has become excessively paternalistic, so as to protect itself from it’s own uncontrollable, deeply ingrained, racist tendencies. Much like the pitiful alcoholic who requires outside intervention in order to keep himself accountable, and effectively from destroying himself, so too, deeply racist societies like those of northern Europe, have relied heavily on artificial means, through law, to subdue it’s racist demons. It is unsustainable, because given the right, or should I say, wrong economic and social conditions, we would see Northern European fall into the extreme right, as Germany did in the 40s, under such conditions. Suarez is the victim of sensitivities that exist in countries that are unwillingly multicultural, and as a result, boiling in a racial pressure-cooker. In some countries, “Negro” is a term of endearment, in others, it’s a dirty word. Who’s right? You decide.

  • Paulo

    You mention- “Although Uruguay may have had black players representing their country for almost a century, their continued use of such words to describe black people shows that their country still sees race as an issue worth referencing”.

    Absolutely, and we even do this in song too. Many of our enlightened, leftist folk musicians have often romanticised Africanism, and revered blackness long before the Civil Rights movement or any such enlightenment in the Anglo Saxon world. Most of these musicians weren’t black, or certainly not in the near past. You have to understand that from the Mediterranean to Latin America, there is no ‘white’ race, in reality (though some would like to believe). Before England’s first ‘Mulato’, Spain, Portugal, Italy etc had already been biracial societies, and this was a major factor in the Spanish, as brutal as they were as colonisers, allowing intermarriage in the colonies. So it’s not surprising than in societies where racial purity is GENERALLY, and I emphasize GENERALLY not of primary importance, that such racial sensitivities do not exist ads they do in nsations such as Enlgand, the US, and South Africa, in particular. Biraciality in Latin America has been the norm for hundreds of years. In England, as in the US, it is still something that seems to be taboo, or gain excessive attention. You claim Uruguay is England’s 1995 social equivalent, though most would say, England is Latin America’s 1700’s social equivalent. Yes, a minority of “enlightened” British law makers, social engineers, and PC lobbyists are trying to curb societal disease that is racism in Britain, but how do you change the inherently racist and purist heart of the Brit? That is the source of the problem, and until your whiteness is bred out, you will always need draconian laws to subdue your prejudices. Don’t forget, you are northern European, and you can believe what you want, but the rest of the world knows what you are, and what you’ve done. You fool noone but yourselves, if you think you have the moral high-ground on this issue.

  • Alvaro

    Paulo….you are the best.
    I would love to see a reply from the writer of this article. Is one more uninformed writer that judges Suarez and our Latin interracial culture without deep enough knowledge.
    Happy New Year to you.

  • Paulo

    Thanks Alvaro.

    Hasta la victoria siempre!!!

    Happy New Year to you too!!

    Pardon the typos in my posts. I must have been falling asleep 🙂

  • charlie


    Thanks for your comments. It’s good to hear detailed, intelligent debate on something I have written, and a big improvement on some comments in which the commentator has read the title but not the article itself!

    I agree that I am not as qualified as some, especially native Uruguayans, on the issue of the meaning of race and racial slang in your country.

    For that reason, I am willing to concede that the first section of the article is debatable. I am a football writer rather than a social commentator!

    I will, however, refer you to the final paragraph, particularly the section that states: ‘Luis Suarez left Uruguay six years ago. He played in the Netherlands, a country which has to be among the most racially diverse and integrated in the world, and now lives in England. If he doesn’t know the difference between the social etiquette of these various cultures, then that is his problem.’

    I do know that in my country, England, it is not acceptable to call a black man who you do not know well, a negro, or any other word referring to the colour of his skin. If I travel to another country, I follow their social code. If I call someone the wrong thing according to their culture, I am responsible for the consequences. It is up to me to do the research, not up to them to accept my ignorance.

    This said, it is my opinion that Suarez was fully aware of the consequences of calling Evra a negro, and I am of the opinion that he is trying to use ignorance as a poor excuse, and a way to escape a ban. If he was not aware then he is admitting to a stupidity that betrays his demeanour. I am glad he has got what he deserves in terms of football, but I believe his fine should have been £400,000 rather than £40,000. Justice has been done.


  • Paulo


    Now tell me what you believe John Terry deserves?

    Aha!! caught you out didn’t I? as you probably already swept it under the carpet just like the English FA has. Everyone in the Spanish speaking world is waiting on the Terry verdict, because we expect nothing but double standards from those Nazis. It will be a national embarassment for the whole of England, should Terry get away with anything less, considering the frenzied nature of his racist attack against Anton Ferdinand. There isn’t anything endearing about Terry’s comments, IN ANYONE’S LANGUAGE!!! So anything less than a 9 match suspension, and £40,001 in fines is totally unacceptable, and evidence of racism of a far more stealthy nature on the part of the FA. On the other hand, I don’t expect the FA to do anything outside of their nature.

    Suarez is expendible because he is, as Evra not so affectionately referred to him as, a Sudaca. Of course, the tradition of racism in European football against Latin Americans stretches back a hell of a long way, and FIFA’s not so subtle Eurocentrism has never made matters any easier. The fact that Evra got into the act of vilifying Suarez on grounds of ethinicity, says to me that the message of racism hasn’t even touched those WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!!!

    In my books, and those of anyone with even an iota of common sense; if you give it, you have to take it just as good. If Evra really did vilify Suarez on grounds of ethnicity, then what Suarez said to him in retaliation was fully deserved, in anyone’s language, and should have ended on the pitch. 1-1 There are some serious inconsistencies here, and Suarez seems to be the victim of political point scoring, not to mention pressures from powerful lobbyists.

    Latin Americans are no strangers to being on the receiving end of racism on European soil. What black players have been experiencing over the last 20 years, (since the emergance of players of Caribbean and African background in Europe) is nothing new to us. The South American game has been raped and pillaged by Europe as the Vatican did with the Incas, and unlike the black presence in Britain, South Americans have no political muscle in the Commonwealth. It doesn’t surprise me that with all the cases of football racism in England, this is probably the most high profile, not because it is any worse than any of the others, BUT BECAUSE IT WASN’T ONE OF YOU!!!!!

    Funny, that, it smells of a sewer rat, doesn’t it?

    My point is, the FA better show balance in this whole saga, because the eyes of the world won’t lie, and this will only confirm that England has moved on, but where in hell to?

    If Suarez deserves £400,000 rather than £40,000, then John Terry should qualify for lethal injection. 😉

  • dexylongshot

    If Terry is found guilty, doesn’t that mean that he will be barred from every league ground in the country for 3 years? That, according to a lawyer on talksport is the standard punishment for any fan proven to have used racist language at a ground. This lawyer was arguing that if Terry gets off with it, every fan who is currently barred can appeal. Food for thought before the sweepers come in.

  • Paulo

    Agreed. I’m dying to see the outcome of this. Surez take note.

  • Alvaro

    regarding your comment about:

    ‘Luis Suarez left Uruguay six years ago. He played in the Netherlands, a country which has to be among the most racially diverse and integrated in the world, and now lives in England. If he doesn’t know the difference between the social etiquette of these various cultures, then that is his problem.’

    exactly our point….”the Netherlands, a country which has to be among the most racially diverse and integrated…” sounds a lot like Uruguay that had has integration of different races for the last 300 years…and not like England, that in Paulo’s words…”unwillingly multicultural, and as a result, boiling in a racial pressure-cooker”

    Suarez probably felt at home in the Netherlands, where maybe….just maybe, people try to be more tolerant and less politically correct.

    Here you can have a glimpse of Uruguayan multiracial culture:

    And here some uses of the word “Negro” that are not offensive…

    Ah…and this is an excellent article that really explores the report in depth:


  • dexylongshot


    Just heard on the radio that the John Terry court case has been adjourned to July 9th, a few days after the end of the Euros…… convenient eh? I wonder if there was any FA interference there,
    sweep sweep sweep!

  • Paulo

    Very convenient indeed Dexy!

    Forget Suarez and Terry, it’s clear that the biggest racists here are the FA. Once again another example of the way in which these Nazis push their “do as I preach, no as I do” agenda. Luis Suarez is a scapegoat, a bandaid solution to a serious social issue that is polarizing England more and more.

    Welcome to 1940’s fellas, one depression away from the rise of the 4th Reich in Britain. If they’re this bad in the area of sport, imagine what these countries will become if they could experience even 0.01% of the poverty and struggle Latin America has had to endure over the last 400 years.

  • Paulo

    Hi everyone.


    I tell you, the eyes of Latin Americans are right on this Terry case, and the FA are losing face VERY quickly. Hypocrites!!!

  • Alvaro

    Coming to update on this subject, after a very laughable FA’ decision on giving Terry’s a 4 match ban (just one more than for a red card).

    A $hitload of people around the world is commenting on the discriminatory way that the FA treats foreign players, and the difference in punishment between Suarez that was found guilty on the balance of probability, compared with Terry where clear video of what he said is there for everyone to see.
    To show more proof of the perceived injustice, even Aguero came out calling the referees on that one, and how they make differences in their decision making depending on nationality or origin.

    Charlie…any comments?

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