Both men represented their countries in last year’s World Cup. They even faced off in a friendly that resulted in a 0-0 tie. (Evra captained the French squad until he was stripped of it after leading a controversial player revolt that became the hallmark of the team’s much-chronicled meltdown.)
On October 15, the two men crossed shins once again at a Premier League friendly and this time it wasn’t very, well, friendly at all.
Suarez was recently suspended for eight games for, in part, using the term “negro” (or the Spanish equivalent) during an on-the-field confrontation during that game.
That was revealed in a 155-page report conducted by an independent commission that detailed the whos, hows and, most important, the whys regarding what led to the suspension.
Suffice it to say that it came down to how the word was used rather than the use of the word itself.
Suarez contented that the term was not a disparaging one in Uruguay, and that may be true.
But Evra contended that Suarez used the term to punctuate sentences in which he said he would kick Evra and that he “doesn’t talk to” black players.
I’m in no position to say whether authorities over-reacted to the incident. But I applaud them for addressing it in a way that acknowledges the brewing trend of racists taunts that have come to characterize European soccer in recent months.
The penalty was almost certainly, in part, a reaction to the growing sense that European soccer, while still where the game is played better than anywhere else in the world, had become soft on racism.
There’s not only no place for that in sports (on any continent) but as the game continues to try and establish a foothold in the U.S., and as a global marketing power, many corporations will be reluctant to associate themselves with a sport won’t embrace all cultures.