…before you verbally abuse an accused racist. OK, I’m paraphrasing a bit, but mindful of the poor reception afforded Uruguay’s Luis Suárez — accused last year of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra — the Guardian’s Amy Lawrence suggests, “there is a time and a place for sporting rivalries to get sulphurous – and for many football fans that is a vital part of the attraction and the drama – but this isn’t really it.”
Suárez himself, and his defenders, appeared to be slightly more cheesed off than they may normally be to hear the flak he can expect to absorb from opposing fans at any Liverpool match. Sebastián Coates, his team-mate for club and country, felt compelled to argue: “It has gone too far,” and urged the public to give it a rest.
That may well be wishful thinking once the domestic season begins again, as villains are not easily recast in football, but he is not wrong to feel aggrieved that British antipathy towards Suárez (outside the red half of Liverpool) has followed him into an environment that is, on the whole, almost entirely welcoming of all competitors.
Here was another example of why some people feel uncomfortable with the notion of a sport as “professional” as football, with its colossal status and enormous popularity, and its prizes that are regarded as more valuable than Olympic medals, being included in the Games. The environment of top-level men’s football, for all its allure as well as its ills, really is a different beast to its Olympic counterpart.