What I Think About When I Think About Jamie Vardy

My extended family is very proud of its abilities with humor, from the pun-laden, eye-roll-worthy guffaws of my father to the cutting sarcasm of my brother and aunt. At family gatherings, dad jokes mix regularly with incisive social commentary. I remember a joke that my grandfather used to tell when I was a kid that made me laugh, that I thought was a clever play on words. There are dozens of variations, but a quick search turned up this version, which closely mirrors my grandfather’s.

A word about my grandfather: he is a serious man, whose inner demons have fought a running battle with the rest of him for nearly nine decades now. He’s the first person in his family to achieve a college degree, a trained chemist and a self-taught farmer. He also lives in southern Kansas, a state not known for its love of diversity. He forbade his daughters from dating black men in the 1960s. One wonders what he thinks of his grandson’s wife, an Indian-American woman. One wonders what he thinks of his other grandson’s wife, a Jewish woman, or if he knows that Jewish cultural tradition dictates that his great-granddaughter, my daughter, is also Jewish.

One wonders whether my grandfather recognizes that “engrish” jokes are unacceptable, whether he has ever reflected on the “Chinaman” of his joke. One also wonders when I stopped telling that joke to my friends and whether or not I did so because it’s not a complex joke or because it’s racist. I can still hear that joke today and a little flare of happiness lights up in me because it is a connection to my past, to my grandfather. It is, to my knowledge, the only joke my grandfather has ever told me and it is something we’ve shared in a world where sharing things with my grandfather is exceedingly rare. And yet, it is wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad joke or artfully crafted: it is racist and it is wrong. It should not be told again.

It can be hard to look in the mirror, take a deep breath and say, out loud, that you have done some racist things, that you have thought racist things, and what’s more, you might be able to have this conversation with yourself again in 10 years about your actions tomorrow. It can be hard to look at your loved ones and see the terrible things they have done or thought. I love my grandfather and I don’t want to vilify him. I want to say that he is a gentle and loving man. I want to say that he studies history and stands at the edge of rivers and looks out quietly across the water. I want to say that his hands shake and it makes me afraid. I want you to think well of him, not ill.

In August 2015, Jamie Vardy sat in a casino in England and repeatedly racially abused a man. A journalist, Jonathan Liew, took exception to the fact that few to no media outlets were mentioning his racism while glorifying his run of Premier League goals scored and celebrating his rise from lower tier football to “the best league in the world”. Liew first tweeted this, received a fair amount of stick for it, and subsequently wrote this. Vardy has apologized with a typical statement of contrition that has all the hallmarks of someone who’d like this little problem go away, not actually face up to the mirror and think.

As far as I can tell, the entire transcript of Vardy’s apology is the following: “I wholeheartedly apologise for any offence I’ve caused. It was a regrettable error in judgement I take full responsibility for and I accept my behaviour was not up to what’s expected of me.” It’s so short that style guides don’t even recommend that I put it in a block quote and it’s as sidestepping an apology as I’ve seen. The brevity, however, isn’t particularly important. In fact, I’d prefer the entirety of the second sentence be removed to make it more of an actual apology. The words “regrettable error in judgement” and how they’re “not up to what’s expected of me” is about as “oops, I got caught” as you can make it. Leicester City, for their part, have helpfully lifted the rug for his sweepings, though maybe “substantial fine” does mean what it says.

Beyond Vardy himself, though, are those who would treat this as a mere slip of the tongue or, worse, explain it away as not offensive through some convoluted leaps of faith from racist term to didn’t-mean-it-that-way to it-can-totally-be-a-term-of-endearment. However, Vardy’s term for someone described in media as “an East Asian man” is racist, whether the speaker of such a term considers it racist or not, and particularly so when it is lumped with venomous rage. As with my grandfather’s joke, using language designed specifically to reference race is meant to either confer lower status on whoever the term is aimed or to remind them to whom they are speaking.

Furthermore, as Jonathan Liew accurately puts it, “Yes, we all make mistakes. But my drunken mistakes tend to involve falling asleep on the night bus rather than racially abusing a stranger.” The same could be said about anger-induced statements. Dissimulating after the fact with weird statements like, “well, where I come from, it’s a term of endearment” is not only false—it’s not a term of endearment where you come from—but also a see-through way of saying “I don’t get it because I’m racist.” Going the term of endearment route is tantamount to claiming that it is the speaker who gets to decide whether or not a term is offensive to the subject and that, obviously, is a load of the finest grade manure you can get your hands on.

Imagine a scenario, then, in which Jamie Vardy were to encounter an opponent—nevermind his Japanese teammate, Shinji Okazaki—on the field, use such a term, and then claim that it was just how you speak to people around you back home. Imagine a scenario in which he not only refused to apologize, but further antagonized that opponent at their next encounter by refusing to shake his hand for having had the temerity to call Jamie Vardy out on racial abuse, perceived or otherwise. This seems unconscionable, but—and by now surely you see where this is going—of course FC Barcelona has a player on their books that did exactly that: Luis Suárez racially abused Patrice Evra, refused to apologize for it, claimed he’d used a term of endearment, and then refused to shake Evra’s hand at their next meeting. (And, if you haven’t read it or need a refresher, here is the FA finding about the incident)

Replace the main character of my grandfather’s joke with “Negro” and you can see why that might be problematic. However many times Suárez was accused of using the term (6), he admits to using it once, but as a term of reconciliation. Suarez’s stance that he meant it only how he uses it with people back home and his teammate, Glenn Johnson, is pretty much the same as claiming that Shinji Okazaki who should be flattered that Jamie Vardy has taken notice of his skin color. Evra gets to determine whether or not Luis Suárez used an offensive term or not, not the other way around.

That can sound problematic if your judicial sense is steeped in finding excuses for poorly thought out expressions, but it’s hardly debatable in wider society. It’s not that Suárez should have been banned for longer or even what the ban that took place was, but rather that Suárez has yet to come around on the idea—at least publicly—that what he said was wrong or could even be construed as wrong, not because it got him in trouble, but because he used a term that turned out to be offensive to the subject, even if that term was misunderstood across linguistic and cultural barriers. It would be one thing if Suárez had turned around and said “That’s offensive? I’m really sorry, I didn’t know that. Please forgive my ignorance.” It would be another for him to put on a shocked face and deny all charges, slowly coming around later to the idea that yeah, actually he did say some of the stuff that he was accused of, but you know, not in that way. Definitely not that way.

People make mistakes. Liew is totally right about that, but it’s the way in which those verbal mistakes are approachedafterward that often matters more than most of those mistakes. Suárez is obviously prone to outbursts and given to intensity and that may be a major source of his on-the-field abilities, but it might also be something he needs to think more seriously about. Whatever happened between him and Papakouli Diop in the first leg of the Copa del Rey match against Espanyol, Suárez was angry enough to challenge Espanyol’s players after the match in the tunnel according to the referee. If that sounds deranged, that’s because it is. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen Suárez lose his cool. Sadly, I don’t think it’s the last time either.

And here we are, then, with Suárez holding the keys to another successful season (there’s no doubt in my mind that he was the missing piece of the puzzle that unlocked last year’s Tripelete 2.0) for a team that I love to watch. He’s a fantastic player, but we’re in Leicester City territory again: if we hold Suárez accountable for his actions, if we make sure that he faces his demons, we may lose a valued member of a team we support. He does a job, he plays a sport, he is meant to entertain, not be a role model. Except in our own lives, one assumes and hopes, we hold ourselves to a standard that sees us constantly improving, constantly learning from our surroundings and adapting to situations in which we find ourselves. It is one thing to say, as Suárez did, “Where I come from it is normal to refer to people in this way by reference to what they look like. There is no aggression in referring to somebody in this way and there is certainly no racial connotation,” and it is another entirely to fail to recognize the society and reality around you. Maybe Suárez does think that his terms were inoffensive, but that is meaningless because he is not the subject. He may have a demonstrable point regarding the use of colloquial terms, but that does not make these terms any more correct or any less racist simply because they’re in widespread use.

Let us return, briefly, to my grandfather. When I was a baby, my mother’s cousin (thus my grandfather’s niece through his brother), married a black man. It was, for my extended family, kind of a big deal. First, because it was Outrageous. And second because, once they met him, everyone totally thought he was the bee’s knees (and they still think that, 20-some years later). I was too young to have opinions on anything at the time, so I’ve never lived in a world where my grandfather hadn’t course-corrected on at least part of his racism. This is important not simply because it makes me more capable of hanging out with my extended family without angry thoughts, but because it shows a willingness to change. It is also something that makes me question myself on a regular basis.

It is important that we consider the facts as they are rather than as we would like them to be. It is not the role of a fan, sitting at home, to toe the party line, to support the players come hell or high water. Fans in the stadium, during a match, can play that card if they wish, but blind faith is hardly a positive quality in another human. Indeed, from my vantage point at this computer, it is the duty of fans to question the club hierarchy and the club’s commitment to the values it espouses in giant letters across the stadium’s seats: mes que un club.

Jamie Vardy, Luis Suárez, and my grandfather are all people who are loved by their families, who are hard-nosed when it comes to overcoming obstacles, and who have made mistakes. I have made mistakes. We atone for those by changing our attitudes and roles, not through half-assed apologies. Suárez has never apologized to Evra in private or in public and, one assumes, never will. In a sense that is fine — I doubt my grandfather has ever apologized to any Asians he has met or to any black men whose amorous approaches to his daughters were rejected (by them) because of his rules — but a continued defense that “that’s just how we do it at home, it’s not offensive” is possibly indicative of his attitude towards opponents and fellow human beings.

Beyond the details of each case lies the fans’ willingness to buy and parrot whatever their current roster produces. While it is fun to jeer opponents (especially madridistas and pericos!) during or surrounding a match, us-vs-them mentalities are hardly a good thing overall. It may be nice to associate with like-minded individuals, but if the cost is our basic decency, the consequences outweigh the possible rewards by quite a large margin. To rant against the disgusting signs and chants that Espanyol fans recently subjected the Barcelona players to and then try to portray our own side as completely respectful and undeniably open and affirming is to fall prey to the insidious nature of sectarianism. To decry Vardy as a racist and then angrily denounce accusations against Barcelona players is to forget that the mirror is always looking back.

Categorized as Thoughts

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. Sorry but plenty wrong with this article. Only things certain in the piece is that Isaiah’s grandfather & Vardy are racist by just about any definition.

    Suarez may indeed be a racist but the Evra incident certainly does not prove this. Not even the FA report was conclusive but to the larger point the banter & actions in the field of play where tempers are high is not the same thing as a calm interchange between interviewer & interviewee as in the case of Vardy or Isaiah’s grandfather. Then to extrapolate that incident to suggest he wound up black players of Asspanyol in the tunnel when other reporters confirmed that the only one who uttered ‘waste of space’ or anything else was Mascherano suggests wishful thinking on the part of the author.

    There’s no doubt Suarez is a knucklehead but neither of us know the player/person well enough to claim him a racist just because someone’s grandfather is

  2. Racism is deplorable, it is one of the ugliest human behaviors.
    Racism, however, isn’t automatically detected when someone is offended by another’s words. In my view a racist is someone who assumes negative characteristics of a person because of that person’s ethnicity.
    Therefore, being familiar with South American culture, I can verify that what Suarez said is true. The word negro (black in Spanish) is used to nickname a man just because he has dark skin. It is descriptive and neutral and in no way offensive. Something like naming a man with blue eyes “Mr Blue Eyes”.
    Having said that I would criticize Suarez for being insensitive for the different culture he operates in, but that is a very long way from calling him a racist.

    1. It should also be noted that since Evra spoke Spanish to Suarez, it was the Frenchman who was operating in a culture he was unfamiliar with. It was also the Frenchman who first lied about the exchange by wrongly translating the Spanish word “negro” to an English word that in western culture is so offensive I can’t print it here.

      Then again, Suarez probably lied as well about saying the word more than once. He probably couldn’t believe his luck when he saw how something that in his culture is hardly worth arguing about wound up his opponent so.

    2. Levon: Good point about Suarez not believing his luck when he saw how Evra reacted. I recall the very long discussion of this topic back when it happened (or when Suarez was signed to barca), — people I know from various south American countries insisted that is very common to call people Negro, or Blanco, or Gordo, or Flaco, without any pejorative overtones, but as we know in many other countries, very notably the U.S., this is very much not ‘OK’. It is my personal (I stress that) opinion that someone like Suarez quite likely would not be tuned into that, but really I do not know.

      On the topic of calling people Gordo or Negro or something, in south America being common: Back when Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, I recall seeing a photo of the front page from the leading newspaper in Venezuela, with a photo of Obama and an enormous headline “El Gran Negro”. If that doesn’t prove the point, I wonder what would?

    3. A couple of points that I think are worth fleshing out:

      The main point of this was, and I hope this was clear enough overall, that we as a fan base have a duty to look in the mirror, especially if we are socis. These are not cut and dry concepts and they never will be, especially not as Barça continues to grow its global brand and connect more and more with a broader range of cultures and societies. That mirror is for all of us–as a white American it is clear to me that my own culture and society has quite a ways to go in this regard–and it’s worth looking at. Perhaps you (the singular you I can’t see reading this) get the response that you’re doing just fine, thank you. That’s great. Congratulations. And maybe it’s enough for you and I can understand that, but that doesn’t make it less of a reality for millions of people, especially those people of color whose own experiences do not mirror your own (even if you are a person of color).

      Furthermore, even if you consider that what Suarez said was totally acceptable in Uruguay, it doesn’t really make much sense to argue that it thus is totally acceptable in England. This seems obvious, but that aside, it strikes me that a lot of the people who are convinced that using race-based “terms of endearment” in Latin America are sidestepping the reality of racism in Latin America and that endemic nature of racism globally.

      I am not, actually, looking to vilify or crucify Suarez for the actions he took 4 and a half years ago and has since not repeated, but one should bear in mind the reaction that Liverpool had at the time (t-shirts to support him, among other things) and the generally tone deaf way in which they approach the broader idea that a Liverpool player could possibly racially abuse someone. What Lev mentioned makes a lot of sense: “He probably couldn’t believe his luck when he saw how something that in his culture is hardly worth arguing about wound up his opponent so.” If this is the case, then it’s a pretty cut and dry case of consciously deciding to use a term that was clearly causing offense through being interpreted as racist. I quoted Jonathan Liew about drunken mistakes specifically because of this type of response: there is no excuse for in-the-heat-of-the-moment statements that hinge on racism. They are meant to hurt, demean, and put someone in their place. If you are suddenly confronted with a term you are using offending someone, even if it’s just playing around, why would your first reaction be to continue to use it unless you were, you know, trying to cause more offense in that setting. Winding someone up on the soccer field isn’t an excuse. Trying to win a match is not an excuse.

      All of that aside, though, the bigger question isn’t Luis Suarez. It’s the next time this happens. Are we going to get stuck in the 2010s like so many have gotten stuck in the 1950s? It’s all a process of learning to be better, both as people in our personal lives and as fans of our favorite teams. We all make mistakes, but shouldn’t those mistakes help us course correct? The problem with so many of these discussions is that the course-correction is in negative space. Luis Suarez hasn’t racially abused anyone since Patrice Evra (or, as far as I know, before that either), so has he given this a lot of thought? Maybe, maybe not and we may never know. The lack of bigotry for 4 and a half years is a good sign. That’s great. John Terry hasn’t racially abused anyone since then either (his “incident” happened just 7 days later), but he should still have a long look in the mirror from time-to-time, right? That’s all I’m really saying, except I’m making it an institutional question rather than a question for a specific player about a specific event. Don’t forget the general “what, no way, you’re making shit up” reaction when Busquets was alleged to have called Marcelo a monkey. And Rakitic definitely used homophobic language; they be no angels and neither be we.

    4. Mistranslating a word and then, when later realizing your mistake and correcting yourself, is not lying. But considering your obvious bias in the matter, I guess you feel justified in “lying” about the incident?

      To you and the the posters above you; it saddens me that on this website that hosts so many intelligent writers, such as Isaiah, Kevin, etc., the comment section so often descends into partisanship, all too often when issues of FCB and race are at the forefront.

      Rather than rehash the nuanced and cogent points made by Isaiah and Kevin in this and numerous other articles, I foolishly hold hope that those frequenting this site can move beyond their blaugrana-tintend glasses and recognize that race is not a partisan sporting issue.

    5. I toyed with whether or not to get involved in this thread which I’m sure Isaiah is aware could very quickly go off the rails. To begin with the central argument about double standards regarding Espanyol fans – well, of course, that is pretty hard to defend in the first place, especially when Pique’s son is involved. My interest has always been in comparative issues ; in this case are Suarez’s alleged racist comments worse, same as or slightly less worse than the public questioning of parentage where a child is involved ? I know all are wrong but that’s easy to say if you don’t have a decision to make as a result of it.

      Dafman’s definition of a racist I can go along with in the sense that I’m clear if something of that ilk is said because of an assumed superiority and imbuing that person with negative characteristics because of race or with the intent to hurt someone by demeaning their ethnicity then that can be construed as racist. Intent is important to me.

      I’m also not biting at Isaiah’s well dangled carrot but I do have some questions which I have had to deal with in my last job which I’m not sure I ever did well despite good intentions. So, if I may be allowed some leeway to just ask them and but out, I’d be interested to see any responses.

      1. In my previous life as a school manager the local authority had a clear. racism policy. A comment was racist if the ” victim” thought it was. If such was the case we had to fill in the appropriate Racist comment paperwork and send it down the road along with the action we had taken. Intent or level of awareness were irrelevant. I had a comment box but also an ” action”. box.

      In my job I came across a spectrum of kids: those who were aware of what they said, those who really weren’t but did intend hurt by the comment and those who had no idea they had said anything worthy of a form. Same action or not ? ( Although we’re talking kids here I reckon the same categories exist in the adult population . Maybe our expectations should be different ? )

      2. Following on from above I have had an occasion where a pupil attacked another and when the attack was over the. ” victim ” ( ? ) screamed at him to ” F off, you English ********** !” Before I had time to think about how to deal with this I had the parents of the attacker in my office looking for the ” racist” to be excluded. Action ?

      3. Final question comes not from my job but from my football games. One of my friends ( whose parents were Chinese) was the victim of an atrocious tackle from the side and went down in a heap. I thought his leg was broken and the game ended in fisticuffs ( which I ducked by helping my friend to the changing rooms ! ) it turned out he had just badly torn ligaments and he asked to be helped inside.

      As we waited for the ambulance our team came in furious and said the fisticuffs had actually been provoked by a racist comment made by the tackler about the authenticity of the response to the tackle. I didn’t have the heart ( and it was definitely not the place to ask my pal ! ) but I’ve wondered ever since which he would have regarded as worse. We had a post when Suarez arrived which touched on this but didn’t receive any answers so my question is a simple one. I know you’d rather have neither, and that both are wrong, and that as an (ageing ) white person I’m not really in a great historical place to offer any comment but would you rather receive a racist comment or a tackle almost designed to break your leg ?

      Before finishing I should maybe add that someone’s background, ethnic or otherwise, means absolutely nothing to me. We had over twenty nationalities in our place and there were very few incidents so I wasn’t working in the Wild West. I am in no doubt that I, coming from my background and being a confirmed coward, would always rather receive a verbal insult than a physical one but am also aware that there is nothing anyone could SAY to me about being Scottish that would rile me so I’m not suggesting that it’s a fair comparison.

      Having started by ” accusing ” ( not really) Isaiah of whipping up an old controversy I’m just sitting watching the news about migrants in the UK having their doors painted red and that sends absolute shivers down my spine. Sorry for the length and no intention to offend anyone.

    6. Jim, with respect, I think that examining the issues you put forward in a comparative context is part of the problem. It’s often impossible to adjudicate “worseness” when given two wrong actions. I will say that if you attempted to deal with the situations you encountered with good intentions, that’s not nothing; the key then, and moving forward, is to learn from those situations and attempt to address the issue better the next time, which sadly, will happen. And quite honestly, sometimes there is no “correct” answer. Your school’s paperwork not permitting account for intent or awareness sounds a nightmare, and assuredly made your job more difficult than it should have been.

      Lastly, I will argue that asking whether someone would be racially insulted or have their leg broken illuminates nothing, One can’t compare two items that have vastly different effects on the victim, and that have vastly different corrosive effects on society. While it’s likely that your friend had never suffered a leg-breaking tackle before and likely has not since, he’d probably be racially abused numerous times before and many times since. And it’s the later that contributes to migrant’s doors being painted red.

    7. Some fair points, Posthipsterpope. Especially about the corrosive effect over time of remarks such as these.

      The reason I mentioned the comparative nature of incidents isn’t some academic exercise. These were actual decisions I had to make so I didn’t have the luxury of ignoring the need to be able somehow to balance different negative actions, whether in the school setting given or the leg incident. Of course, given the fact that I was dealing with kids the major element in all the incidents was learning from what has happened to improve future conduct and the best way was usually to let the kids speak about how they had felt, if they were comfortable doing that.

      However, I’m not sure the vastly differing effect of the two on a person and whether it matters isn’t exactly the point. In the discussion we had before about Suarez , we were debating whether spitting, biting or deliberately setting out to injure someone was worse, precisely because actual decisions had been made regarding bans for Suarez which obviously balanced his comments on one occasion and biting on another, against punishments doled out for red cards etc. Physically, the greater damage is probably done by a deliberate bad tackle but it was fascinating to hear the different posters here speak eloquently from the point of view of their culture and background . One of our better discussions I thought.

      For me, as I said, given my background, the physical abuse would outweigh anything said. On that one occasion. However, if. verbal abuse of that nature were to continue then I don’t know. I also accept that we as a society need to be mindful both of the corrosive effect you talk about and of the implicit rather than explicit racism which exists.

      Given that I’m reflecting on this just after what would have been a busy lunchtime with rain so most of the kids cooped up inside, snowballs having turned to ice balls as it disappears and a wind getting up I’m now reminded again how peaceful retirement can be. I think this afternoon holds a quiet stroll down to the gym/pool and maybe hit some golf balls !

  3. I especially appreciate the last paragraph emphasizing “the insidious nature of sectarianism”. So very true.

  4. Isaiah, somewhat off topic, I’m moving to Germany in August (to Leipzig), and was wondering if you could tell me how one can watch Barca games on TV or online there. Mainly, I’m concerned it’s a lot of TV stuff I’d have to buy into, just to be able to see the games (like here in the USA, I’d need to get cable TV package, and get a sports package). I’d appreciate any advice you have, or info on how you watch Barca games in Germany. Thanks.

    On topic, thanks for the interesting article. It reminded me of my grandfather, who told the same joke, also using the word “Chinaman”. For Suarez, I’m really happy with his work ethic and support of teammates, but he’s sometimes pretty cringe-inducing — and I’m afraid that he’ll eventually bite someone 🙁 I can only hope for the best…

    1. As of now you can watch all of the games (liga, copa) in HD for free on laola.tv. It’s big drawback is it’s about 30-40 seconds behind live and you’ll see stuff pop up on Twitter before it happens on your screen if you’re the type that follows both game and feed at once. I’ve read that Sky is trying to get rights, but hasn’t ponied up for it, so it stays on laola.tv for now. Champions League is exclusively on Sky and requires a cable package to get from home, but basically any bar (and many restaurants) will have it. I also remember that Leipzig had a screen with Sky on it showing Bundesliga when I was wandering through the mall downtown; one guy had brought a cooler with his own beer! Leipzig was interesting, but the long weekend I was there it was rather dreary all but 1 hour or so. The zoo is incredible, especially if you have children.

    2. I received a rather nice email back from Sky when I complained about their lack of Copa coverage saying they didn’t have the rights to any of the rounds but did have the final. Poor show from them this year really.

    3. Thanks for the info. Can you watch La Liga/Copa games on-demand on laola, or just live?

      Apparently Leipzig is pretty grim in the winter, but when I was there for a bit last August an early October it was very pretty. I’ll have to check out the zoo (although no kids yet).

  5. I just saw on @barcastuff the possible new shirts for next season!If are the real they are so amazing all of them!Especially the home one,one of the greatest i have seen!I hope they are real!And i hope without Qatar!

  6. What a game!!!!What a win!!!!Justin Doellman i love you!!!!!Wow i watched the game and in the end i celebrated so much!!!!!Thank u team!!!!

  7. Posthipsterpope: Sorry, but perhaps because of the way the comment section presents posts, I don’t understand what you mean by ”

    Mistranslating a word and then, when later realizing your mistake and correcting yourself, is not lying. But considering your obvious bias in the matter, I guess you feel justified in “lying” about the incident?

    To you and the the posters above you; it saddens me that on this website that hosts so many intelligent writers, such as Isaiah, Kevin, etc., the comment section so often descends into partisanship, all too often when issues of FCB and race are at the forefront

    It isn’t clear to me who your comment is directed to, and where you are seeing the partisanship. Can you explain further? thx

  8. I don’t think partisanship has anything to do with this issue. I guess that some people who feel offended try to excuse those of us whose opinion on the matter offends them by dismissing our arguments as influenced by the shirt that Suarez wears. I can assure you that for a lot of us this is not the case.

    To put Jim’s comparison into context, y’all do know you can end someone’s career by breaking his leg, right? Or the corrosive damage to a player who will never get back to his previous level? I mean, it can take you from being Torres in Liverpool to Torres in Chelsea. Or it can take you from being Falcao in Atletico Madrid to Falcao in Chelsea. I don’t need to be of a darker shade than white to know that I’d take the name-calling every day of the year.

    I do want to be very clear about a common misconception. Although the word “negro” can be used as a term of endearment, we can be sure that Suarez did not call Evra that because he wanted to be friends. He probably said it matter of factly – Evra is black so I call him black. Even if he didn’t use it in a friendly way, the word itself is not offensive. The moment that he saw how it offended Evra and he continued using it (if Evra is speaking the truth, and I certainly believe it plausible Suarez is lying about this) it is definitely race-baiting. But again, this is something that sounds really bad in Western culture but for South Americans is just not that big a deal – it would take a moron of moronically large proportions to lose his cool on a football pitch because somebody calls him negro negro negro negro negro negro). Different cultures look at these kind of things differently. You can see how for example Dani Alves deals with crowds making monkey noises in comparison to Samuel Eto’o and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

    This does not mean that Latin America is free of racial issues or that its societies are not racist. They are, and due to the vast socioeconomic inequality throughout the continent the consequence of their racial divide is a lot greater than in Western countries. If, for example, a rich person says to a poor person, “negro, clean the floor,” that’s something different. But in the context of a football game “negro,” is really not an issue to get worked up about.

    Back to Europe. I grew up in a multicultural society (roughly half of my hometown’s population has at least one non-western parent) and the majority of my friends were not white. Racial epithets were the order of the day and they were usually not used endearingly. Not saying it was pretty – saying the wrong word to the wrong person at the wrong time would definitely lead to fisticuffs but hey, that didn’t stop anybody from whatever. Again, not saying it’s pretty but guess what – most people I know who balk at the use of racial slurs are racist nevertheless and often even more so. That goes for white Europeans especially. A lot of this political correctness is just hypocrisy. And a lot of people that occasionally use a racial slur are a lot less racist than others, especially that well-educated and politically correct segment of the population that has not grown up around immigrants other than perhaps the lady who cleans their house on Thursdays.

    Anyway I don’t think anybody is completely free of prejudice. Those of us who think you are, you’re probably lying and maybe even to yourself.

    1. Levon: I remember from the earlier discussion on this topic that I found myself nodding in agreement at nearly everything you wrote — sounds like we had a very similar set of experiences.

  9. Words are situational, as is their usage. That’s what I find myself feeling when I see the “Well, they do it in South America” thing. If I call my wife a bitch while we’re making love, it’s a potential enhancement. If I call her a bitch while we’re having an argument, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish. That’s the situational semantic of this situation.

    I have said in this space before, that you can use racist language and not be a racist. But it doesn’t make the situation that precipitated the usage of the language as well as its usage, not racial. Especially to the person who has been offended.

    At the moment of the incident, Suarez and Evra were in battle. This is different from a newspaper using “Negro” in a headline for a story that lauds President Obama. It’s the complexity of language and linguistics, without even getting into offense, which is also situational.

    Look at the “nigga” banter that flows back and forth among the Brazilian players on Twitter. We see and hear similar in the U.S., where white people often wonder why they can’t use the word, when blacks do. Even without parsing the “a” vs “er” aspects, it is a word that is so loaded, it almost becomes impossible for a white person to use, directed at a black person. (BTW, Chris Rock does a very funny breakdown of when it is okay for a white person to use the word, that is worth a gander on YouTube.)

    Could Suarez have been trying to placate Evra by using a term of endearment that was misconstrued? Yup. But to Evra, that doesn’t mean that the incident isn’t racist, because of how he interpreted the situation, and use of the word in that situation.

    What we often see is the equivalent of “stick and stones my break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” So folks say on the overall scheme of things, a hard, dangerous tackle is vastly more vile than calling someone a racial slur. But here’s the thing: a broken leg can heal a lot faster than lost humanity, which often never does heal. The various “isms,” take away someone’s humanity. and that’s brutal because it eats away at you.

    Black players deal with racist abuse very differently, but it doesn’t mean that stings them any more or less. Dani Alves might have picked up that banana, scarfed it down and taken the free kick at Villarreal, but we don’t know about what he felt in his soul, or when he looked in the mirror at home. Racism is the theft of humanity, plain and simple. And that can hurt a lot more than a broken leg. It can color everything that you do, every situation that you might find yourself in, from that day forward.

    In the U.S., we often hear, “Why don’t blacks and whites talk honestly about racism?” The reason is mostly because neither side is prepared to deal with the honest answers to honest questions. Isaiah describes it as looking in the mirror, which is very eloquent. When you look in the mirror you should see another human, just as when you look at another person, no matter their race or gender. Because at the core of it all, we’re all human.

  10. I would be mad if Nolito play for Celta this weekend and then we buy him.Neymar is injured and if we had buy Nolito all this days he could play against Malaga.I will be waiting.Not that i am afraid the game but it would be stupid to wait until the last days to get him.Lets see what will happen.It s a tricky game and the players seems little tired.But until March the schedule is awful,as Lucho said.Arda can play LW but i like him more in midfield.Maybe Suarez will play there and Munir CF.

  11. Enter Your Comment… The issue of partisanship is the single biggest impediment to the proper resolution of this case in football. The shirt a person wears colours/ waters down the response.

    John Terry had the entire backing of Chelsea during his own saga. The club and its supporters were united behind him wholly. No shadow of doubt there. Liverpool even went to the lenght of printing T shirts in support of support. All the way to the hilt. No room for doubt, no room for the possibility that their man could have been culpable.

    Football is a very popular sport played by very skilled players but i find our reactions as supporters very much absurd in general. The ingrained reaction is the impulse to defend our lot regardless of the circumstances. I find that very poor. That attitude is why for instance we still have a debate about who is better Messi or Ronaldo when there is nothing to discuss really.

    Our need to defend is why people in Uruguay to near successful lengths of erasing evidence that Luis Suarez, ourr Luis Suarez, butted a referee in his teenage years after being sent off. The scope of Hunter S Thompson’s effort would have done proud a homicide detective such was the covering of Suarez’s tracks.

    1. For some reason Neymar + Suarez + someone else has been working a lot better than Messi + Suarez + someone else…

      But the problem today is bigger than that — they”re just not moving right in midfield and there are no passing options.

    2. Didn’t catch the entire game (lost connection), but from what I saw, Messi did not seem to be a 100 %, and I did not see much from Suarez. S & N might work better as they are more mobile or at least vertical than Messi, who often looks for the pass these days, and drops in & deeper. N & S functions as two attackers, Messi as a playmaker. Also, the team did not look great. Busi seemed off, Arda is still looking for his Barca-self, I think, but Iniesta did well, without really making too much of difference attacking-wise.

      Sergi another fine sub – though was caught once, making a mistake. That we even note the odd mistake is a testament to his progress.

    3. It looked like we were missing Pique’s leadership in the back. We struggled to build plays from the defense, with plenty of clearances up field coming back right at us.

    4. Piquédependencia! And Neymar, who to be honest, is Barca’s best player at the moment, together with Iniesta and Piqué.

    5. Yeah, if Messi is not running at the defense with the ball, and he often isn’t these days, without Neymar the destabilizing factor just .isn’t there and the offense stagnates.

      But it was a lot more than that today — the reason we had trouble playing the ball from the back was that nobody was moving and making themselves available (those triangles ain’t gonna form by themselves, you know), and even when there were passing options the pass was often mishit. Really strange — we had a game on Wednesday, that’s true, but it’s also true that only 5 of the starters today started on Wednesday too…

  12. I’ll put that first half down to tiredness from the game against Bilbao and an opponent running for their lives. Almost everyone was off, from defense to offense and in between. Second half was better but it was still very clear they wanted to preserve energy, as well they might. A win with just the minimal amount of creativity and skill expended (plus another confidence goal for Munir), I’ll take it.

  13. Enter Your Comment…Dominated by Malaga? Not really. We did not pin them back and gave up too many ballsa. This was hardly like the Celta/ Rayo games earlier in the season.

    We lacked a bit of security and the 1 goal margin emboldened them. It was to be expected really. They seem to have our number and always put in a great shift against us.

    Three points in the bag here is hoping Atletico have it tough with Sevilla. I am confident we can do the job @ home against them.

  14. Ok, I have no idea how some of you guys cope with them thar streamie things ! Sat and watched the game on one today and it was a miserable experience ( no I’m not talking about the play although that might come later …). For one reason or another ( which we won’t go into if you don’t mind) it kept going down and for the rest it was like peering through a window getting pelted with heavy duty Scottish rain. Only thing I could make out over the 90 minutes was when one of ours ran into three of theirs in midfield and unbelievably came out with the ball. I’m gonna take a wild stab that that was Iniesta.

    So, I’ll have to wait until 9.30 tonight till Sky deigns to show me extended highlights to find out how we played although reading some of the comments the pub might be a better bet ? God, I’m spoiled !

    1. It’s a matter of finding the right stream. Where exactly did you watch it?

      I personally don’t own a TV and refuse to get one on principle grounds (I can’t afford to pollute my brain with television), and I have been watching games on streams for more than a decade now. It used to be choppy grainy Chinese streams way back in the days, but it has improved greatly since those times.

      There are still plenty of crappy streams, but there are also good almost-HD quality ones, if you know how to find the right Sopcast channels.

  15. Its unbelievable how the whole team had an off today. Nothing seemed to be working in that terrible first half. Not that the second half was a big improvement, but still.
    Football is very unfair, as Malaga at least deserved a point. How in the hell, can they play like this to us and then go on to…

  16. There may exist a few well known approaches to playing Barca. There is the bus parking-counterattacking approach. Typically, it’s defined by a well organized defense. Follow that up with a disciplined four man midfield that understand the need to be behind the ball and learn to sit on top of their defenders. Then you’ve got the two forwards engaging in the defensive burden and the readiness to pounce on a long ball(counterattack). I think this approach is great.

    There exists another great option. Press high up the pitch and run your asses off. You may define it as going toe for toe. Requires a coordinated team press and commitment. Sacrifice for one another is clutch. Totally admirable.

    How then do you play Barca? I think one thing for sure is that every time a team prepares to play the World Champs that it is a most concentrated effort. It’s been said before and it will be said again. We get everyone’s best. Like Eminem says “you only get one shot. Do not miss your chance you’ll lose it”. Well, teams get two shots a year in the Liga. And one good one at your home ground. The Malaga faithful were jumping today!

  17. Probably nobody is reading this thread any longer for thoughts on the original post, but I found myself with a few free minutes this morning relaxing, and had a few interesting (at least to me) angles on this.

    Sport is many things, but I think one core basic need it fulfills is a safe proxy for aggression. Particularly the way ‘soccer’, American football, hockey, and other more or less contact sports are structured, they are in many ways sanitized versions of gladitorial combat. There is also the aspect these days of national teams competing against each other, which most times seems to me to be a ‘safe’ way to avoid a war, though sometimes it has also resulted in war. If you’ve ever had the luck to visit central america and some of the mayan ruins, the ball courts there are eerily reminiscent of a modern soccer field — and in those games losers were sacrificed. Talk about high stakes.

    We often (far too often, for my tastes) hear coaches and players use military terminology to describe games and tactics, and I can even remember our beloved little angel Messi talking in terms of the other team ‘hurting you’ (as in penetrating and scoring). Watch the mass reactions of fans to a tense match and a winning goal, and it looks to me just like a matador with a skillful thrust dispatching a bull (a bull that could just as easily have killed HIM). Blood sport, all of it, though of course there can be dignity and all the rest — I’m not trying to paint it all one color.

    Given this undeniable undercurrent, and the super hyper masculine nature of the people and this kind of sport, consider how it might be if it actually turned into a battle or a war. Imagine Athens vs Sparta! Can anyone really imagine them being squeamish about ‘racial’ insults, or having one’s mother called a whore (echoes of Zidane, no)? Imagine Germany vs England in WW1, etc. etc. They are warriors in combat against each other.

    Now, I realize professional league soccer is different from war, that we are all hoping for a better and more human and dignified world, that we all understand that behaviors on the battlefield are in fact NOT models for everyday life, etc. etc. But I also think that sports have many similarities to combat, that they will never go away, and that we will search forever to find a balance of being kind and respectful to each other on the field while at the same time using an essentially war-like model as an activity.

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