United We Stand, United They Fall

United We Stand, United They Fall
January 29, 2012 Paul Tomkins

Like a lot of Liverpool fans, I’m sick of the moralising by holier-than-thou types about ‘our’ behaviour. The main evil of racism is that it brands everyone as the same, in an often derogatory manner. So yes, clearly Liverpool fans are all the same, and clearly this is no kind of stereotyping.

(That’s right, travelling United supporters, we’re all murderers, and “96 was not enough”. Equally, that doesn’t make all United fans lowlifes, and the same applies to Liverpool fans, most of whom have never sung a song about Munich. Fans of all clubs can be as bad as each other, especially inside the stadium.)

One shit-for-brains bloke (allegedly) racially abuses an Oldham player; suddenly it was ‘a section of the Kop’. It was in online editions of newspapers within minutes. Never mind that at the time, the player, Tom Adeyemi, may have misheard – there’s no doubt that he believed he’d been insulted, but in 2004, something similar happened in a game between Norwich and Everton (http://www.kickitout.org/news.php/news_id/140).

Never mind that the hysteria surrounding racism and Liverpool, whipped up to a frenzy by the mass media, may have caused Adeyemi to think he heard something offensive – the stories were published, and the accusations were made, before a shred of evidence existed. I’m not sure if the guy in the Kop has been charged and found guilty or innocent, or whether he said Manc bastard (due to Oldham’s location) or black bastard, but if he did racially abuse Adeyemi, then we don’t want to see his ilk at Anfield. But the Kop were condemned before the facts were even known.

This time, one neanderthal makes monkey gestures, and we all tarred; even though it’s just one man in a crowd of 44,000. (Lock him in a cage, where he belongs, and feed him bananas, if that’s how he wants to behave.) So far, that’s two people out of combined crowds of around 80,000, who have acted like throwbacks from a bygone age, with only one of them proved to have done so (in that the man making the monkey gestures was clearly captured on tape, and has no excuse unless he himself was an actual monkey.)

Patrice Evra is booed, and suddenly it’s a ‘racist’ attack by Liverpool fans. Eh?

Let’s get one thing straight: Evra was always going to be booed. Anyone making racist gestures deserved to be removed from the ground and banned, but showing displeasure – by booing – for a player who freely admitted to starting the argument with Suarez by saying the Spanish phrase “your sister’s cunt” (which in itself is weird, given that Evra is French, and this was in England), and who kissed the United badge at the Kop end around the time of the Suarez squabble, is confusing the matter. Evra was a marked man even before the allegations of racism arose.

Fact: as captain, kiss the United badge to Liverpool fans at the Kop end, and you’ll be booed upon your return. (When I Googled the following image, the results were from United forums, saying how great it was. If he was a hero for doing so, then Liverpool fans will think him a villain. Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville suffer the same fate; are they black?)


Make no mistake, Liverpool fans have a lot of reasons to boo Evra, and none are to do with his colour. Alas, 40,000 people cannot express the complexities of their feelings toward the player in any other way than booing.

Yes, it looks bad to outsiders when you boo a player who claims he was racially abused, but a crowd does not have the facility to express subtleties and nuances. You can boo a player and it not mean that you are condoning racism, or blaming him for reporting the matter. Singing “We’re not racists, we only hate Mancs” was designed for this purpose, but its simplicity doesn’t tell the full story.

Consider, if you will, the alternative: Suarez gets found totally innocent, as could just as easily happened based on the balance of probabilities (in a case that would never have gone to trial in a real court, due to the total lack of evidence), and what happens when he next appears at Old Trafford?

He gets booed, and called a racist. If Evra was to admit that he made it all up (and I’m not saying he did), Suarez would get booed. He would. You know he would.

Anyone saying otherwise is deluded; after all, he was getting this kind abuse from crowds before a decision was reached, and with no actual evidence in the public domain to suggest that it was fair for fans to condemn him. It’s not like clear video evidence existed on YouTube, for example.

And remember, Suarez was convicted by a ‘court’ that has a success rate above 99%. The success rates of witch trails was only a fraction of a percent better when the accused either drowned or, if they floated, were then forcibly drowned – 100% dead. Justice is not served by a process that finds just only one in every 200 people innocent; the odds of being right should be nowhere near 100%.

This ‘independent’ process was actually a case of the FA acting as the prosecution, and selecting the ‘independent’ panel whose job, you sense, was to side with the people employing them. One was a man who boasts of “saving Sir Alex Ferguson’s job”.

The fallout after the game – in which Liverpool snuck a late winner in the very section of pitch where Evra had kissed the United badge – overshadowed an excellent victory, but win, lose or draw, we knew what the narrative would be. There’s been more condemnation for Liverpool fans than the Chelsea fans who, inside the stadium, chanted “Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are”, or those who sang racist songs on a train. John Terry has been described as almost heroic in the way he’s dealt with his situation. He’s a big, brave white lion.

(As an aside, look at how the FA charged a black foreigner accused of stamping on an opponent last week with the way the reacted when it was a white England captain all those years ago. Who was found guilty, Balotelli or Shearer? As another aside, look at how the ‘handshake’ issue was handled by the FA, just months after lambasting Sepp Blatter’s handshake idea. Even though Blatter wanted to end all matters with a handshake, which is daft, Ferdinand should never have been pressurised into shaking Terry’s hand, as the FA were doing in the lead-up to the game.)

Liverpool fans booing Evra was worthy of five Tweets by one senior journalist, but a bullet in the post to Ferdinand was worthy of only one. Remember, boos are just disapproval, straight from a pantomime; a bullet is a death threat. (Even then, sent by just one lunatic, not the thousands of decent Chelsea fans.)

And a leading race campaigner, who also just happens to be on the board of the Chelsea FC Foundation, said of the posted bullet that “it’s time for real Chelsea fans to stand up”, while Liverpool, as a club and a set of fans, have been roundly condemned by that same campaigner.

Never mind that the FA report, for all its flaws, clearly stated that Luis Suarez “is not a racist”. Evra said the same. But everywhere, Suarez gets called a racist.

Suarez admitted to, on one occasion, using a word that linguistics experts said would not be racist, if used in the way Suarez claimed. Evra claimed the word was used more than once, albeit with inconsistencies is the frequency.

Evra also changed the accusation from the Spanish word for black (‘negro’, pronounced neg-gro, not nee-gro) to the far more pejorative ‘nigger’. (While negro is insulting in English, it is still on the US census as a form of race at the request of 56,000 members of the black community; ‘nigger’ would never be anywhere near a census. My point here is only to say that ‘nigger’ is obviously regarded as worse than ‘negro’, and Evra changed his story between one and the other.)

The stories of both men are riddled with inconsistencies, as perhaps happens when trying to recall an emotional, heat-of-the-moment exchange that took place, but Evra’s were explained away by the panel, and Suarez’s were condemned. Liverpool fans are angry about that. Reading the document, it seems like a case of trying to make the facts fit the accusation, rather than weighing the evidence (or lack thereof) and making a sound judgement. But of course, the FA’s job is to find guilty; they are the prosecutor.

“The experts concluded their observations on Mr Suarez’s account as follows. If Mr Suarez used the word “negro” as described by Mr Suarez, this would not be interpreted as either offensive or offensive in racial terms in Uruguay and Spanish-speaking America.”

If Liverpool fans would rather believe this, than the somewhat dubious ‘balance of probabilities’ decision reached, that should be our right, without being apologists for racism. Our argument is that, based on the facts in the case, there is no evidence of racism; just the single use, as admitted by Suarez, of one word that was lost in translation.

This is not to say that Evra is lying (although it should have been acknowledged that a previous FA hearing found his evidence to be unreliable); just that finding who was telling the truth should have been labelled an impossible task.

To use “he was found guilty” as an attempt to shut down all debate is unhelpful. Look at this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_miscarriage_of_justice_cases

Again, this doesn’t mean that Suarez is therefore definitely innocent. It just means that unfair procedures – and the FA has been criticised by the government for its unfair procedures (the evidence of which is the 99.2% conviction rate) – cannot be trusted to dispense justice. Kangaroo courts in countries with dictatorships don’t convict as readily.

What’s the betting that if John Terry gets found innocent in the crown court case, he won’t be charged by the FA? Remember, the FA don’t need much evidence to convict; and remember, Suarez’s case wouldn’t have even gone to court, given how weak it was. My betting is that the FA will say that the higher power found Terry innocent, as they could not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore that’s the end of the matter. Well, that higher power would have found Suarez innocent, too. Indeed, it wouldn’t have even got that far.

Again, this is not to say that Terry is guilty. He deserves a fair hearing, like anyone else. It’s just the double standards that rankle.

Many United fans are being self-righteous, despite defending Peter Schmeichel in his spats with Ian Wright, when the Arsenal man alleged he was racially abused. They sing about their South Korean midfielder eating dogs, and sang about Rafa Benítez as our “fat Spanish waiter”. Some sing vile songs about Hillsborough, and mock the dead. This is no high horse to proudly sit atop.

You have my word that if any Liverpool player is proven, beyond any reasonable doubt, to have racially abused someone, I will heartily condemn them. You have my word; come back and see me. But guilt based on the balance of probabilities from a disciplinary body that finds guilty more than 99% of those who stand accused? – Never! The Guardian, of which I always considered myself a proud reader (and in the 1990s, an employee) would rightly rally to free people convicted by less dubious methods.

I’d like to say that this will be my last comment on the subject, but it’s likely to raise its head in a couple of weeks. I wouldn’t blame Kenny for leaving out Suarez, such is the hatred for him in Manchester.

Finally, go and click on the following three links, with the first two pieces written by someone with no interest in football and no allegiances.