“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” Luis Suarez lives his life by Napoleon’s words and has been hugely successful in doing so. It doesn’t seem to matter what crimes he is guilty of, he always manages to find someone who is prepared to write about his version of events, rather than the truth, as we have seen yet again in his new autobiography and recent interview in The Guardian.
When Sky Sports showed the replay of the coming together between Suarez and Branislav Ivanovic in 2013, people couldn’t believe their eyes. Did he just bite him?
It didn’t take long to remember that Suarez had been guilty of the same crime just a few years earlier when he bit PSV's Otman Bakkal, but you still had to watch the footage several times to believe what you were seeing.
At the World Cup, when the commentator again asked whether Suarez was guilty of biting someone, this time Giorgio Chiellini, you presumed he was being facetious. But then you saw it, clear as day, Suarez sinking his teeth in to the Italian. It was unbelievable.
Still, if Suarez can do anything well, other than banging in a load of goals, it’s inspiring these moments of utter disbelief and then trying to convince people it didn’t happen.
On February 11th 2012, Suarez made his first start for Liverpool after his eight-match ban following being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra. The issue of pre-match handshakes had reared its head before, following John Terry-Wayne Bridge, Terry-Anton Ferdinand, but what happened at Old Trafford was incredible.
Ferdinand and Bridge had both shunned Terry’s hand before and you imagined the same would be possible for Evra. But to see the Manchester United defender hold out his hand and Suarez choose to ignore it was staggering. Not only had he racially abused him, now he wouldn’t even shake his hand, with the eyes of the world watching.
Immediately after the game, statements were released from the Liverpool camp, starting with Suarez apologising for his behaviour.
"I have spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong. I've not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I'm sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened. I should have shaken Patrice Evra's hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions.”
Kenny Dalglish, who had been a staunch supporter of Suarez in light of the racist incident, was quick to condemn the striker, insisting he was “surprised” that Suarez had chosen not to shake Evra’s hand, and it was “right” that he had apologised.
Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s managing director, was the most critical of all though, saying: "Luis Suarez was wrong to mislead us and wrong not to offer his hand to Patrice Evra. He has not only let himself down but also Kenny Dalglish, his team-mates and the club. It has been made absolutely clear to Luis Suarez that his behaviour was not acceptable."
Liverpool were seemingly desperate for the whole affair to be over. They had behaved disgracefully in the previous months and courted plenty of criticism in the media. The manager and players had donned a Suarez t-shirt after he had been found guilty by an independent panel of racist abuse. The report had revealed that Dalglish tried to influence the referee by making the false suggestion that Evra had made an allegation of this kind before. Liverpool fans had welcomed Suarez back with open arms and booed Evra for no other reason than being the victim of their star player’s racial abuse.
In choosing not to shake Evra’s hand, Suarez dragged the incident out for much longer than was necessary, so the club rightfully scolded him for it.
Over two years have passed by since then though and Suarez has now made his “dream” move to Barcelona.
Apparently there is no such thing as bad publicity so Suarez, riding on the wave of his biting ban, has released an autobiography, written by The Guardian’s Sid Lowe. Following Roy Keane’s latest book, Suarez would have a job on his hands to be more controversial, but he’s given it a good go.
Suarez addresses the issue of not shaking Evra’s hand but has a very different version of events, which have been left unchallenged by the author.
‘I had every intention of shaking Evra’s hand in the team line-up before the match. I had spoken to my wife about it before the game and said that I would. As I was walking down the line, Evra was shaking everybody’s hand, but he lowered his hand when I reached him. He shook Jordan Henderson’s hand before me, and his hand moved downwards, away from mine. The images are there for everyone to see. My hand stayed outstretched at the same level but once he’d lowered his, I thought: “Okay, he’s not going shake my hand,” and I continued along the line. Once I had passed him he started with the show of grabbing my arm and protesting that I hadn’t shaken his hand. And he looked towards Sir Alex Ferguson to see if Daddy was watching. If it was a trap, I fell into it.’
As simple as that, history has been re-written. No acknowledgement of the fact Suarez apologised at the time for not shaking Evra’s hand, no mention of the fact Dalglish voiced his disappointment in Suarez’s behaviour, and certainly no reference to the public telling off Ayre gave him on behalf of the club.
But then, Suarez is a big fan of trying to replace fact with fiction, so whilst the player is capable of shocking people, the lies in his autobiography shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.
After footage circulated of Suarez biting Chiellini, the Uruguayan released a statement protesting his innocence. He wrote a letter to FIFA insisting that he had done nothing wrong.
"In no way it happened how you have described, as a bite or intent to bite. After the impact ... I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth."
Three weeks later, Suarez changed his tune, and apologised to Chiellini, acknowledging: “the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite.”
Maybe in his next autobiography he will insist this was a massive conspiracy against him too, and sweep this apology under the carpet.
Suarez’s history of lying doesn’t seem to dissuade The Guardian from reporting on his book as though what he is saying is fact though, which comes as surprise, given they’ve had their fingers burnt by him before.
Lowe interviewed Suarez in August 2012 and in the article there was the bizarre claim that “after three days of video evidence at a three-man Independent Regulatory Commission, lip readers produced no hard evidence that he said what he was accused of saying.”
For anyone who had read the report released by the FA, they knew that Suarez had called Evra a “negro”, as that is what he admitted to saying. This wasn’t the Terry case. There wasn’t a question of whether the word “negro” had been used or not, so the suggestion that lip readers were required arrived from pure ignorance.
However, when Lowe was challenged on the claim in his article via Twitter, he claimed that when he had spoken to the player, Suarez denied calling Evra “negro”, and the journalist wasn’t prepared to believe he had been lied to.
Having a glance through the report or reading any newspaper’s summary of the proceedings would have saved any blushes here.
Unsurprisingly, Suarez has changed his story yet again since that interview, and has again reverted to the version of events that state he did call Evra “negro”.
As this word may be interpreted differently in South American countries, depending on context, it was vitally important that people with an understanding of Spanish spoken on that continent were involved in giving evidence.
Professor Peter Wade and Dr James Scorer were the men asked to give their expert opinion. Wade is a specialist in race and ethnicity in Latin America and has also worked on the ties between national identity, popular music and race. He has been a fluent speaker of Spanish for nearly 30 years. James Scorer works in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. His research focuses on Latin American cities, particularly urban politics and cultures, as well as on national and regional identities in Latin American cinema, including that of Uruguay.
Both men acknowledged that the word “negro” can be used in a friendly context with the implication that a sense of rapport exists between the person using the word and the person it is said to. They also claimed that someone attempting to establish rapport could use it too. This is the context that Suarez said he intended to be understood.
However, both experts insisted that the context could determine whether this word was meant in a “friendly and affectionate” way, as Suarez claimed it was used, or whether it had pejorative connotations. Suarez used the word “conciliatory” when describing why he had said “negro”, although the first time this description was given by the player was after the club had received reports from the language experts using this same word, claiming that if “negro” had been used in a “conciliatory” manner, it shouldn’t be interpreted as an insult.
In an interview with Simon Hattestone last week, again in The Guardian, Suarez claimed “in Uruguay, you can say ‘negro’ to anybody at any time and it is never considered racist.” This, quite simply, is not true, but he wasn’t challenged on this.
Suarez also claimed that it was simply his word against Evra’s, but in the FA report, Suarez’s own legal representative, Peter McCormick, accepted that wasn’t the case. If a lack of intelligence is the issue here behind him repeatedly speaking untruths then it begs the question why professional journalists are struggling to correct him.
But given that in Hattestone’s introduction, Suarez’s racial abuse of Evra was described merely as “an allegation” it’s no surprise that the player was let off the hook.
Video replay of the incident at Anfield didn’t show Suarez saying “negro”, but the footage could be used to assess the player’s general demeanour. The fact that it followed a foul and was used in the midst of an argument, as acknowledged by both players, convinced the independent panel that it was used as an insult, and therefore racial abuse.
Footage showed Suarez pinching Evra’s skin during the altercation. Suarez initially claimed this was something he did in an attempt to “defuse” the situation. After questioning, Suarez conceded that this statement wasn’t true. The panel agreed, saying: “It was plain to us that Suarez’s pinching of Evra’s arm was not an attempt to defuse the situation. It could not conceivably be described in that way. In our judgment, the pinching was calculated to have the opposite effect, namely to aggravate Evra and to inflame the situation.”
In his autobiography, Suarez discusses the incident at length, but insists that the reason he was found guilty is because of a lack of understanding surrounding the use of the word “negro” in South America. The fact that experts in the field provided evidence to the contrary is of course overlooked in the book.
The most interesting statement in this section though shows Suarez giving yet another contradicting version of events. Despite insisting during the FA interviews that he called Evra what he did in a “friendly and affectionate way”, to try and convince them that the word could not have been intended in the manner the language experts said would be considered as racial abuse, he makes an interesting confession now.
“I’m not trying to pretend it was meant in a friendly way to Evra because clearly we were arguing.”
So, not only has he been caught out for telling another lie, any notion that this wasn’t racial abuse has now gone out of the window. “Negro” can be a term of affection in Uruguay but Suarez has now admitted that he did not use it in this way at all.
However, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this. For as long as there are journalists who are prepared to pander to this habitual liar, we will continue to see his attempts to re-write history again and again.