What did Suarez actually say to Evra?

Have you heard the one about the Uruguayan, the Frenchman and the bunch of somewhat baffled Englishmen…?

Yesterday’s announcement that Liverpool FC’s Luis Suarez is to be banned for eight games and fined £40,000 over an incident during a league game between Liverpool and Manchester United on 15 October in which its alleged that he, in effect, racially abused/insulted United’s French fullback Patrice Evra raises a few interesting questions, not least in terms of the suggestion that cultural misunderstandings may, or may have played an important role in this particular incident.

Liverpool’s defence of Suarez, as set out in its official statement, is intriguing inasmuch as throws in a quasi-legalistic argument…

We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play – including Evra’s own Manchester United team-mates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken.

Before going on to call in question the veracity of Evra’s allegation/evidence to the FA inquiry…

LFC considers racism in any form to be unacceptable – without compromise. It is our strong held belief, having gone over the facts of the case, that Luis Suarez did not commit any racist act. It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations.

After which we get a lengthy excursion into the ‘He can’t be racist because of my own ancestry, and some of his friends are black’ defence…

“It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said: “I don’t think that Luis Suarez is racist.” The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suarez was not racist.

“Luis himself is of a mixed race family background as his grandfather was black. He has been personally involved since the 2010 World Cup in a charitable project which uses sport to encourage solidarity amongst people of different backgrounds with the central theme that the colour of a person’s skin does not matter; they can all play together as a team.

“He has played with black players and mixed with their families whilst with the Uruguay national side and was captain at Ajax Amsterdam of a team with a proud multi-cultural profile, many of whom became good friends.

“It seems incredible to us that a player of mixed heritage should be accused and found guilty in the way he has based on the evidence presented. We do not recognise the way in which Luis Suarez has been characterised.

Before finishing up with the ‘but what about what the the other guy did’ gambit…

We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks to an opponent after he admitted himself in his evidence to insulting Luis Suarez in Spanish in the most objectionable of terms. Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult.

So, the overall claim is that is all just down to a bit of on-field sledging* which got of hand when Evra threw in the complaint that he’d been racially abused despite, seemingly, giving as good as he got in all other respects.

*The term ‘sledging’ comes from cricket and refers specifically to the practice of using a combination of verbal witticisms and, sometimes, verbal abuse to wreck the concentration of a batsman and the term is by no mean synonymous with abuse. Some of the finest sledges of all-time rely purely on genuine wit of which the acknowledge master was Steven Gascoigne, aka Yabba, a legendary heckler at the Sydney Cricket Ground who, amongst other witticisms, coined the oft repeated “Send ‘im down a piano, see if ‘e can play that!” and what may be the ultimate putdown for any bowler, “Your length’s lousy but you bowl a good width!”

Other sports have their own names for this same practice. In basketball its called ‘trash-talking’ while ice-hockey players refer to it as chirping, however, arguably the most famous, or maybe infamous, example of this practice comes from boxing and, inevitably, from Muhammed Ali who, during a brutal 1967 points victory of Ernie Terrell, repeatedly regaled his opponent with the words ‘What’s my name Uncle Tom’ in response to a pre-fight incident in which Terrell had referred to Ali by his former name, Cassius Clay.

Before getting to what Suarez is alleged to have actually said to Evra, it has to be said that if Liverpool FC wish to play this out as nothing more than a bad case of cultural misunderstandings then they really should have not tried to play the mixed heritage card as part of their defence of Suarez.

Unfortunately, for the club, that’s an argument solely on what are contemporary British conceptions of race in which there is no particular sense of a class divide between mixed race individuals and those who regard themselves as being just black. Any distinctions that can be drawn here are purely cultural and, if we’re honest, increasingly meaningless as people are free to choose which aspects of their notional cultural heritage the wish to adopt or ignore. Where there is something more concrete by way of social/cultural divisions within the UK’s black communities, it tends to be based an individual’s geographic origins, i.e. whether their family came to the UK from the Caribbean or from Africa, and not on the extent to which they may, or may not, have a mixed heritage.

In Central and South America, things are rather different due to the cultural legacy of the Spanish Casta system, a complex and intricately stratified caste system based on primarily on race which has had a marked influence on cultural attitudes to race in the region and, to a considerable extent, still plays a role in determining one’s social class and social status in society even if the system, itself, hasn’t been rigidly enforced since the end of the Spanish colonial period.

Regardless of Suarez’s personal views on race, his cultural background is one in which being of mixed heritage and, in particular, being two or more generations removed from a black ancestor, in no sense automatically precludes the possibility of an individual harbouring racist attitudes towards individuals of the same race/ethnic group as their ancestor. That doesn’t tell us anything about Suarez’s actual attitudes towards race, of course, but it does serve to illustrate the fact that his club is unwisely trying to have their cake and eat in in deploying the ‘mixed heritage’ defence while, at the same time, claiming that this entire incident can be written off as nothing much more than a cultural misunderstanding.

And so we come to the question of what Suarez actually [allegedly] said to Evra and it would appear that the offensive term in question is ‘Negrito’, a diminutive form of the word ‘Negro’ which, according to some people who’ve looked closely at the tape of the incident, Suaraz apparently repeated several times.

Casting around on a few Liverpool FC fan forums, the main line of defence that’s being deployed – after stating that the forum does not condone racism of course – is taken directly from the Wikipedia entry for the word ‘Negro’ as follows:

In Spain, Mexico and almost all of Latin-America, negro (note that ethnonyms, names of nationalities, etc. are generally not capitalized in Romance languages) means “black person” in colloquial situations, but it can be considered to be derogatory in other situations (as in English, “black” is often used to mean irregular or undesirable, as in “black market/mercado negro”). However, in Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay where there are few people of African origin and appearance, negro (negra for females) is commonly used to refer to partners, close friends or people in general independent of skin color. In Venezuela the word negro is similarly used, despite its large African descent population.

It is similar to the use of the word “nigga” in urban communities in the United States. For example, one might say to a friend, “Negro ¿Como andas? (literally “Hey, black one, how are you doing?”). In this case, the diminutive negrito is used, as a term of endearment meaning “pal”, “buddy” or “friend”. Negrito has come to be used to refer to a person of any ethnicity or color, and also can have a sentimental or romantic connotation similar to “sweetheart,” or “dear” in English (in the Philippines, negrito was used for a local dark-skinned short person, living in the Negros islands among other places).

In other Spanish-speaking South American countries, the word negro can also be employed in a roughly equivalent form, though it is not usually considered to be as widespread as in Argentina or Uruguay (except perhaps in a limited regional and/or social context). In Brazil, it heavily depends on the region. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, where the main racial slur against black people is crioulo (literally creole i.e. American-born African), preto/preta and pretinho/pretinha can along extremely informal situations be used the same ways as negro/negra and negrito/negrita in Spanish-speaking South American, but it heavily changes in the nearby state of São Paulo, where crioulo is considered an archaism and preto is the most used racial slur against black people, thus all kind of use of the preto word can be deemed as offensive.

So the suggestion is that we should see the meaning of ‘negrito’ as ‘nigga’ rather than ‘nigger’, which might just about wash if Suarez was engaging in a bit of affectionate banter with a close friend or teammate but really doesn’t sit well with the context in which this particular incident took place, i.e. two opponents insulting each other, each with a view towards ‘psyching out’ the other.

Sorry but that’s not particularly convincing – the context of the incident suggests that ‘negrito’ was intended as an insult and not a term of affection, so we need to look for some other possible meaning for the term.

The Wikipedia entry does throw up one possibility with its reference to its Filipino usage – “negrito was used for a local dark-skinned short person, living in the Negros islands among other places”. This closely mirrors the formal scientific usage of the term ‘negrito’ within the field of anthropology:

Negrito (n):

A member of any of various small-statured, indigenous peoples of Africa, the Philippines, the Malay Peninsula, the Andaman Islands, and southern India.

If you need a cultural reference point or two in order to make sense of that designation then feel free to choose from Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel, ‘The Sign of Four‘ in which Jonathan Small’s companion, Tonga, is an Andaman Islander:

He stretched his hand up, and took down a bulky volume from the shelf. “This is the first volume of a gazetteer which is now being published. It may be looked upon as the very latest authority. What have we here? ‘Andaman Islands, situated 340 miles to the north of Sumatra, in the Bay of Bengal.’ Hum! hum! What’s all this? Moist climate, coral reefs, sharks, Port Blair, convict-barracks, Rutland Island, cottonwoods–Ah, here we are. ‘The aborigines of the Andaman Islands may perhaps claim the distinction of being the smallest race upon this earth, though some anthropologists prefer the Bushmen of Africa, the Digger Indians of America, and the Terra del Fuegians. The average height is rather below four feet, although many full-grown adults may be found who are very much smaller than this. They are a fierce, morose, and intractable people, though capable of forming most devoted friendships when their confidence has once been gained.’ Mark that, Watson. Now, then, listen to this. ‘They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads, small, fierce eyes, and distorted features. Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small. So intractable and fierce are they that all the efforts of the British official have failed to win them over in any degree. They have always been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors with their stone-headed clubs, or shooting them with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast.’ Nice, amiable people, Watson! If this fellow had been left to his own unaided devices this affair might have taken an even more ghastly turn. I fancy that, even as it is, Jonathan Small would give a good deal not to have employed him.”

If Holmes isn’t to your taste – and why not? – then the diminutive inhabitants of Skull Island in Peter Jackson’s remake of ‘King Kong’ fits much the same anthropological template as the Andaman Islander in ‘The Sign of Four’.

If this is indeed the intended meaning of Suarez’s insult – and I’m not at all convinced that it is – then the nearest English equivalent would be ‘Pygmy’ which at least has the slight virtue of being somewhat ambiguous in its common English usage, i.e. if its used as an insult its generally intended as reference to stature, as in ‘intellectual pygmy’ and not as a racial epithet.

To be honest, I don’t buy this interpretation of ‘negrito’ at all – its all rather too literate and highbrow for the football pitch.

So, if we’re not to interpret ‘negrito’ as either a term of endearment or as an insult more suited to the Oxford Union than Old Trafford, what are we to make of Suarez’s reported remarks?

The answer, I suspect, lies in taking this question back to first principle and looking at the actual etymology of the term ‘negrito’.

Negrito is the Spanish diminutive form of negro (black person) and, as such, the literal translation into English would be ‘Little Negro’ or ‘Little Black Person’, much as the nickname of Manchester United’s Mexican striker Javier Hernández Balcázar (‘Chicarito’) translates as ‘Little Pea’ – his father, Javier Hernández Gutiérrez, was also a professional footballer and sported the nickname ‘Chicharo’ (‘Pea’) due, apparently, to his having green eyes, all of which make for a refreshing change from the more usual Geordie diminutive* ‘-za’, as in Gazza, Wozza, etc.

*Adding ‘-za’ onto a name to create a nickname is genuinely recognised as a formal diminutive of Geordie origin, one that combines a degenitive (‘-z’ instead of ‘-s’) and an assimilative (‘-a’ instead of ‘-er’) – no, seriously, this is actually true.

If we consider that ‘negrito’, i.e. ‘little negro’ is being used here specifically as an insult then this suggests that the closest match in English is likely to be the word ‘Boy’, and not just any old ‘Boy’ but ‘Boy’ spoken with an instantly recognisable drawl, one entirely characteristic of the South-Eastern United States. The kind of ‘Boy’ one associates with stereotypically fat Alabama Sheriffs and men wearing white robes and head-coverings when it ain’t Halloween.

That’s not an exact rendition, of course. I don’t doubt that the use ‘negrito’ as an insult in Latin culture lacks the historical and cultural weight of ‘Boy’ as its used in those parts of the United States where many cleave to the notion that ‘The South will rise again’ but it does, I suspect, capture the general connotations of Suarez’s insult more closely than any of the alternatives that have been put forward to date. It’s essentially a cheap shot and one from which one cannot reasonably infer anything about Suarez’s personal views on race and ethnicity without further corroborating evidence fo racist attitudes in other contexts, so it would be wrong to label him as a racist on the back of this one incident.

That said, and speaking as West Brom fan who’s old enough to have very vivid memories of the blatant racist abuse that was directed towards some of my own club’s all-time greats; Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham, who was by far the most naturally gifted footballer I’ve ever seen, I have no sympathy whatsoever for Suarez who simply should not have used Evra’s ethnic origins as the basis for an insult, even if it was intended as a nothing more than cheap shot with no genuine racist intent behind it, as does appear to have been the case – and, by the same token, I’ve got no real patience with Liverpool FC’s efforts to play down this incident.

Both Suarez and Liverpool would be better served by taking it on the chin, accepting the ban, and by starting work on rebuilding Suarez’s personal reputation – a little contrition and 12 months voluntary work for the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign would seem to be the order of the day.

We’ve come a long way from the days when black footballers in Britain would be routinely greeted with monkey noises and a hail of bananas from the crowd and although it can’t be said that the stands are entirely free of racism, at most clubs, the racist idiots are very much in the minority and are, more often than not, made to feel entirely unwelcome by genuine supporters.

That, for me, is exactly as it should be, both on and off the field of play, so unless it can be shown that Evra has lied to the FA about exactly what was said to him then, for me, there are no excuses to be made for Suarez’s conduct – if the best you can do by way of sledging an opponent is make comments about his ethnic background then I’d suggest you keep your mouth shut, concentrate on your own performance and leave the banter to players who can deploy a bit of genuine wit.

  • anon

    Long read, lots of guess work as what literal translations of words and phrases are. To be honest, the FA should’ve just got a translator, or someone who could accurately transcribe what was said into the English equivalent. If it was deemed to be racist a punishment should’ve followed, if it wasn’t they should’ve told him to let his football do the talking on the pitch and keep quiet.

  • Sheba127

    Is a cat a pussy? and if so am i racist for calling a cat a pussy? ……the facts are… evra is black… is a negro and is little and very childish so he is as the spanish say a ” negrito”…a little negro….

    • Negrito

      thats racist

    • Muppet. It’s all about context, clearly you don’t understand that.

  • Arwell

    What happened to sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me…….who cares what one person calls another…storm in a league cup it seems

    • John Smith

      Absolute nonsense.  Are you happy to live in a society where racial harassment,  intimidation and abuse are acceptable?  If you had ever suffered any of these things I’m sure the answer would be no.  

      • Peter-bowler

        The race card is currently stacked too much in favour of  cultural minorities,with people walking on egg shells in case they say the wrong word, dont get me wrong, blatant racism is wrong but i get very annoyed when teachers cant call a blackboard a blackboard,when traditional  nursery rhymes are excluded from schools,etc. The whole thing has gone silly & does more harm to racial harmony than good.

        • Tim

          ” i get very annoyed when teachers cant call a blackboard a
          blackboard,when traditional  nursery rhymes are excluded from
          schools,etc.”

          You could have saved yourself a lot of annoyance then by realising those things are urban myths – the product of certain newspapers with certain agendas. My lad goes to school where his teacher makes as much use of her blackboard as mine did and they sing the same songs about black sheep ba-ing as when I was his age. Utter nonsense to believe otherwise.

          • Peter-bowler

            OK so i suppose that the it is just an urban myth that Robinsons have removed the gollywogg from their jam jars.

          • Tim

            I presume you mean “Robertson’s Jam”. They removed the gollywog voluntarily because of declining sales. They replaced it with characters from Roald Dahl books because kids nowadays don’t have a clue who the gollywog character is in the hope of boosting their sales. The gollywog itself was only introduced (fifty odd years after the company started out) because it was a popular childrens toy of the time and they wanted their product to appeal to kids so in essence it was destroyed by the same forces it was born out of. They don’t even make jam anymore, but you obviously haven’t noticed (probably one of the reasons they stopped making it – because nobody cared for it as a product any longer).

      • Pose Golfer

        we already live in that society it just depends on who is dishing out the harassment, intimidation and abuse. 

      • Eamonfire

        I have had years of abuse for being a ‘sheep shagger’ because I am welsh and living in Chester.  Is this form of abuse ok?  If someone calls me a sheep shagger I can respond by getting upset or by giving it back (we shag ’em, you eat ’em).  I think Evra needs to grow a set, shut his whining and get on with playing football.

        p.s. Is abuse towards ginger acceptable?

        p.p.s. How tall is Evra?

      • Jmayoh

        bullshit

    • Jmayoh

      absolutely  true

  • Si

    I read all the way through and was going along with it right up to where you said ”
    Laurie Cunningham, who was by far the most naturally gifted footballer I’ve ever seen” at which point I fell off my chair laughing. Don’t get me wrong he was a great player but to say he was the most naturally gifted footballer you’ve ever seen is more than a little blinkered.

  • Knightsofthepast

    my wife often refers to her dad as “meu negão” in portuguese as he is a “big black guy”. Is she then racist, of course not. The word negrito should not be the point here, a full translation is necessary as even if the tempers are razed it may not be that he called him negrito, that part of his phraze may not have been the “insult” just what he was referring to mr. evra as while insulting another thing, his inability to defend against mr. saurez for example. taking one word out of context is always a bad move. on the other hand it may be that negrito was in fact the stressed word of the insult which would suggest a racist insult. openness is a far better form of punishment in this situation, all this closed doors business of the FA only leaves ambiguity and disquiet amongst the public. but i have to agree that foreign players need to respet the country in which they play. perhaps some lessons in cultural sensitivity would be best served and a firmer hand from king kenny on how his players behave on the pitch, he watched one of the “most naturally talented footballers” in his team receive many racist attacks, although I think John Barnes silent suffering far more dignified than mr. evras own outburst. perhaps players should just get on with playing.

    • Ascourge21

      your wife talking about her dad is not the same thing as two LFC & MUFC players angrily ranting in the field, with millions watching and deep seeded rivalry on and off the field between the clubs…

    • The Spanish are massively racist and so are the spanish descendent speaking countries. They more than anyone know the difference between some harmless put down and a racist insult. Just look at the racist abuse Lewis Hamilton received from the Spanish. Suarez knew the difference.

  • Peter-bowler

    In the current climate of players playing for penalties,trying to get 
    opponents sent off,etc. Is this race card becoming another tool to 
    deprive opposing teams of key players.

  • Anonymous

    No word automatically causes offence, it is all about the context. In this case Suarez was repeatedly calling Evra a name based on the colour of his skin, presumably to provoke (why else?). It’s racial harassment, at the least, and I’d say his punishment isn’t harsh enough.

  • Anon2

    A lot of people have referred to ‘black players’. The BBC ran an article talking about Viv Anderson as the first ‘black player’ for England. In Spanish this would translate as ‘jugador negro’. Therefore the BBC have described Viv Anderson as a negro and they are racist. Obviously not, but this is the logic which has been followed in this case. Negro is a racial slur connected to American culturism, it has nothing to do with language in Uruguay.

    Good thing Matt le Blanc retired a while back. I assume most teams he’d play against would have been banned eventually.

    • Tim

      Matt le Blanc? Since when did Joey out of Friends play football, you clown?

  • Anon

    Rumour has it that Evra referred to Suarez being ‘South American’. From the argument above we can only infer that Evra was intending it as an insult. Is abuse based on origin more acceptable than abuse based on race?

  • Zafar Iqbal

    What a load of rubbish and guesswork this “article” is…doesnt matter if your the same race, you can still be of a different culture (ie Indian/SriLankan/Bangladeshi/Pakistani) and therefore still have a cultural misunderstanding between 2 people of the same skin colour/race!
    And this whole..it was LFC vs MANU so it must be an insult to provoke is also pushing it too far. Just because its a football match, doesnt mean that during the game the players are ALWAYS trying to insult one another. Watch a match and you’ll often see moments of opposing players sharing a smile etc. 
    In this case, yes they were bickering, but could Suarez not have been in control of his emotions enough to say what he said not in anger but also in a matey, jokey way …as in “lets put this behind us, mate” or “let it go, bud”?
    And my last point – youve concluded the term was akin to boy. So lets say that equates to mate in England. How many times have you called people you dont know mate? Everyday I would say…”thanks mate, sorry mate”…etc especially when in a conversation you just want to end quickly. 
    And maybe, just maybe, over the course of time…negrito has gone from meaning little black man in Uruguay to just meaning mate. And Suarez has grown up all his life using the term to mean mate, not racial. Youre in a tough match, being confronted by an angry opponent (Evra was on Suarez/Kuyt/Gerrard well before the incident occurred) and you just wanna play so you just revert back to mother tongue in which just say, “mate”.  Is that racist?
    Imagine you grew up using mate all the time. But what if mate had racial connections from the past  in another country you moved too and then you were called racist for just saying it to someone on the train when you bumped them. Does that make you racist? Especially when you believe that you havent done anything wrong?
    No, none of it does which is why LFC have every right to fight this. Being called racist is a slur and stigma that always sticks. And if your innocent, youd fight tooth and nail to clear your name. So stop your rubbish about just accepting it. If I now call you racist abused on what youve written, would you be happen to accept that and do 12 months community service? If so, more fool you!

    • Nambs2003

      The point of this is the circumstances and context in which he said Negrito.  It is the same as calling a handicap person a derogatory  name or if someone calls you a terrorist because your name Zafar is from the East. That is very wrong. If Evra had reacted like Zidane did it will be that he cannot control himself and sets a bad example to kids who watch the sport world wide.  But guess what that’s the same for Suarez he should be able to focus on his personal game and control what comes out of his mouth.  He knew well that statement is always offensive in the Western world.  There is no excuse. He should be responsible for his actions because he chose the wrong words.  If he had said it after the game it would be different but I don’t think they are cool like that.

  • TheRealTruth

    ministry of truth? You went all out to defend Suarez in this subjective article that is not based on concrete facts. The truth is you think anyone should be allowed to get away with racist remarks. I am looking at this from outside the UK and all the articles try to justify Suarez. Even in English, why would you say ‘you black’ ?

  • Stevo

    I am a Liverpool supporter and basically believe Luis probably  did try to cause offense to Evra. As a kid I was told by an opposing player  if “you go for that ball I’ll break your legs”. Did I go for  the ball?, yes.. of course the guy was trying to psych me out…. did I CRY, no..tell the ref? no .. I was 10 years old he was a lot bigger than me  and I was crap at football…still I was able to figure out  what he was trying to do. Evra is  a big boy (no offense meant) he could have said you South American so and so and that be it…. oh yeah he did didn’t he. End of story.  Grow up everyone, he wasn’t shouting it from terraces or loud enough for anyone else to hear, it was not caught on any camera, no one can go back and prove possible ill will spoken  between 2 people when one says it was not meant that way.  so boo hoo get over it. From the little white boy.
    Whats next you want Lebron James out of the NBA final so you complain to the ref that he called me the little white boy???? Throw him in jail and burn him at the stake ….  

  • here_comes_red

    Just because Suarez is a ridiculously over paid footballer doesn’t mean that he is smart. 

    When working in Western countries, it is important to understand cultural references and become sensitive in using certain terms. No matter how they are used  where he comes from. 

    I am sure he can afford some cultural competency classes.

    For people in the West who are mystified as to why using such words are horrible to use, let me enlighten you…

    By using such words (negro and its variation)  in Europe and America, one is trivializing the hundreds of years of murder and slave trade of Africans. It is not that you, the white guy can’t use it. It’s your freedom of speech! but it is the fact that for 100s of years those same words were used to justify a criminal act. A criminal act that benefited Europe and America. 

    You may not be a racist but by condoning the use of such words, you are brushing off the root of the matter and make it homely to use.  

    Similar to the Holocaust, the “African Holocaust” can not be trivialized or forgotten. It is a crime the world over… that we as human beings should learn from by never forgetting. There are laws in europe that make it an offense punishable by law in trivializing the Holocaust… now is it not fair for a private company slapping the hands of one of its employees in trivializing the African one? 

    peace from America

    P.S. Suarez is the best goalie in the world… 

  • here_comes_red

    if you want to know more about the African Holocaust–
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade 

  • Georges Kanoute

    Can’t speak for Uruguay but I have lived in Nicaragua and people there often use skin colour to give each other nicknames: chele (white, applies to both europeans/north americans and lighter-skinned latinos), moreno (brown, or mixed-race), negro (applies to both darker-skinned latinos and black people). It can be used between friends or even strangers and has *absolutely no racist connotation*, it is merely a descriptor: referring to someone’s skin colour to describe them is as inoffensive as referring to their hair colour or their height. It would actually be more offensive to call somene “gordito” (little fatty) than “negrito” (little black guy) because calling someone fat is slightly insulting (although far less so than in european culture).

    So, for a central american, calling Evra “negrito” is as innofensive as someone calling Dirk Kuyt “blondie”. It’s merely a taunt, much like Muhammad Ali’s addition of “Uncle Tom” at the end of the sentence which you have referenced. In fact, as a diminutive, the expression is meant to taung the opponent by belittling him, not by pointing out his skin colour (the ‘ito’ part is thus more insulting than the ‘negro’ part).

    So these comparison’s to ‘nigga’ and ‘boy’ from the deep South are completely unwarranted. I also spent 10 years living in the States and it is nooooooooooot the same as ‘negrito’ if only in that a white person can generally not get away with calling anyone a ‘nigga’, while in Nicaragua I could easily walk into a bar and call over a dark-skinned waiter, otherwise a complete stranger, by saying “hé, negro, una cerveza por fa!” without anyone raising an eyebrow.

    Now that i’ve done my rant, I will again point out that this is true in Nicaragua, and if Suarez were Nicaraguan I would give him a slap on the wrist and explain that while it’s OK in Nicaragua, it is not OK in England and that if he’s caught again he will get the full weight of the law. Now, the problem is that we still have no authoritative answer as to how ‘negrito’ is percieved in Uruguay and how bad or not it is to call someone that.

    However, you are right to point out the immaturity of Liverpool’s defence. He has black friends? I thought we were past that. Pathetic.

    • Q_g

      why is it pathetic? how does someone defend himself of racism? i think having a proven multi race social circle is a means to do so. Think of it like this…should all his black friends consider him a racist or would they perhaps step forward to say “we are friends so how can he be racist”.

      Racism is fundamentally being intolerable toward other races. if he had said he refused to share the same toilet i would consider him a racist. we are heading toward a society where race sensitivity will control everything. All because people decide holistically to apply a rule without knowledge or consideration of other cultures. perhaps this is typified by all the knee-jerk reactions we see all around us    

    • sumanguru

      Did the incident happen in Uruguay? Nope.  There are varying laws in different cultures bro.  polygamy is normal in some areas and it is not in others like in the USA.  If one chooses to marry many wives in the US he will therefore be trialed according to the law of the land.  I believe Suarez can speak English and understood the meaning of the word in that given situation.  There is no place for racism in football because black people have done so much for the game, from pele to Samuel Et’o, or Henry to Frederick Kanoute.  If I call a gay person a faggot, I intend to insult them and which is wrong.  We are all different and can never be one or the same.  Understanding diversity is part of living in today’s world and that’s that.

  • getoverit

    if suraez had assulted evra he would recieve a three game ban probably reduced to two by the fa on appeal .looks like john terry will get a lifetime ban

  • Noel McGinley

    What hypocrisy! Contrast the FA sending a delegation to FIFA to defend England footballer Wayne Rooney in an attempt to get his 3 match ban reduced for blatantly kicking another player with on the other hand the FA throwing the book at a footballer from “a lesser nation” (wonderful British phrase that!). It will be interesting to see how Terry gets on, I’m sure it wouldn’t take sign language experts very long to tell us all just what exactly he said to Anton Ferdinand … in Suarez’ case it is one mans word against the other which wouldn’t be entertained in a British court.    

    • Marko

      The precedent in Rooney’s case was that someone else got a two game ban for the same offence. Don’t forget that this was under a different penalty code to domestic football so didn’t carry the three-match ban that you see in the Premier League.

  • MatthewC

    It doesnt matter what the word means, it’s why it is said. If you are annoyed with someone and the first thing that pops in your head in their race (Annoyed with a defender so you refer to their skin colour) … then that means you have an issue with their race.

    It either comes from a good place or a bad place … thats the line of racism

  • Watch_me_smile

    I must say this is fucking stupid now, Suarez may well of said something racist and if so he should be punished, but liverpool are backing him against evra’s word..Thats all there is to it, Evra Vs Suarez and Evra is coming out on top because of the recent race arguments over Blatter and Terry causing trouble, Evra has form for this stuff before, he cried racism as a excuse to pick a fight with a chelsea offical?He is a lier and the truth will come out.

    Suarez YNWA!

    • Arthur Hughes

      Evra never cried racism against Chelsea it was Mike Phelan, Evra said he never heard it.

    • Marko

      Another ill-informed scouser. Evra didn’t cry racism over the Chelsea incident – it was Mike Phelan who reported it; Evra was out of earshot at the time.

  • GuessWork

    I think the comparison of “negrito” to “Boy” and having to qualify the use of boy by describing the Grand Master of the KKK a bit over the top. Perhaps it does equate to “boy” but in a “grow up boy” or the fact that Suarez couldn’t handle Suarez all game he was referring to him been a “boy” in footballing terms, not able to play against men. yes I’m speculating but so seems is everyone else.

  • Mfaust1970

    One of your last comments says it all. Unless it can be shown that Evra lied? Really? I thought it had to be shown the Suarez actually made the remarks. If I say you murdered someone, are you guilty unless you can prove I’m lying? You can opine all day long and attempt to make yourself look intelligent, but none of this matters at all if the only ‘proof’ is one man’s word against another man’s word. And if you want to then talk about context, let’s talk about Evra and his past allegations and comments. Give me a break. Personally, whatever Suarez said to Evra was a reaction to what Evra said to Suarez. And I do think that there was cultural misunderstanding, and that it was intended as an insult, just not in the way you try to paint it. I think the insult was more about his stature than anything, Evra, after all, is a tiny little runt. Guess he should have called him a smelly, cheating, bug eyed bastard and then he’d have been alright.

    • Adam

      Suarez has admitted saying the word, and he was caught saying it several times by tv cameras. Therefore he is guilty.

  • stevo

    Some of you don’t seem to realise that Suarez has said that  he did say the word to the FA … whatever it is most think the word was negrito. So in fact its not evras word against suarez  its the meaning of the word or the intention of the word thats being looked at. And in my opinion its so overblown because of Blatter v The FA …. the punishment is way over the top. If suarez thought the word was sooo racist why would he tell them what he said? He tried to explain it to them that its obviously not like saying nigger…. he should have been warned maybe fined all along suarez has said the meaning was not racist.

  • Rsk2uk

    being from a better country north of the border from you lot, gingers are a common sight. we get a laugh out of them, its easy. 99.99% of them take it on the chin, laugh about it and even tell you ginger jokes that other people have told them. ive never seen someone be thrown out a bar or a football match for slagging off a ginger.
    a ginger pubes pal of mine told me a while ago that he gets loads of stick about the colour of his pubes and that it didnt bother him in the slightest. he killed himself two years later. not because he was a carrot top but because he was english. mon’ i scots

  • Patho

    The FA needs to get them in the same room, get them to shake hands and let’s move on with the game…Furthermore, the FA can re-institute its zero tolerance to racism. We could all continue to debate this but as a neutral fan who wouldn’t mind all Man city, Man Utd, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool players banned this season for no reason, I say let’s play on. Apologies to Evra if he was offended by Suarez.

  • Dave Goodyear

    Like rugby, at the end of the game do not use excuses for your poor performance. They do not  blame anyone for a punch or a bad word or foul play they shake hands and forget what went on. Once you find out the detail, of what is said in a professional football game you would stop watching. If you want that information or want to stop it then wire them for sound, especially the ref who receives worse abuse than any player ever has.

    Dave

  • Gerard lally

    I am from Dublin i travel alot in central America they dont have the same hang ups the former slave traders have they call how it is,people introduce their daughter to me gourdita little fat girl or my friend flacito skinny guy there just words its the intent behind them that counts he is a pro he should have more control he aint at home
    gringo

  • Morkoporko

    Gerard use full stops,commas etc..little paddy

  • No2liverpool

    god this is all a bit boring…… john terry is just a horrible person full stop  but unfortunate as it is, i am afraid to have to point out, that just like i am a poof, queer, fairy, bum boy, bender etc etc, the guy is actually black, sorry but thats just the way it is. so if we are going to start taking people to court for all he bad words they have ever thrown at others, i suggest we build a lot more cour rooms and employ a lot more expensive lawyers to fed. Get a life, all the people who are horrified that someone who is also of black background called someone else a black boy. The world has gone mad, the best advise i can give to anyone suffering from thislind of person, is the advice my mother gave me in primary school. Stay aay from them or at the best laugh at them. That hurts far more beleive me.

  • Andrewp_jones

    In essence this was an exchange of insults between 2 footballers, which wasn’t heard by anyone else. Surely the point about opposing racism is to stop the abuse that comes with unequal power (access to jobs, education etc), not to have philosophical debates about the meaning of words? In this case there was no inequality of power, Evra is more than capable of looking after himself on the football field, so in this case why is it worse to use racial insults than other forms of insult? This was hardly an incitement to racial hatred, just an attempt to get an advantage over an opponent, which (in my view) has received far too much air-time.

  • Daddio!

    Good article, if the repeated use of the word negrito was meant as a term of endearment as Wiki suggests occurs amongst South Americans etc, then maybe they were just having a nice chin wag about what they’re doing for xmas and actually being friendly to one another!  What a great example of professionalism! Hooray for Mr Suarez and Mr Evra.  Just goes to show you can be good friends and on opposing sides!  FFS, get a grip, throw the book at him, and Terry can have 16 weeks for the lack of ambiguity in his case.

  • Martin Si

    Lets try to get some facts here, nobody knows what was said or indeed in what context it was said and frankly It is becoming more than a little annoying reading opinions based on speculation.

    When the F.A finally decide to release some imformation as to why they made the decisions they did (why haven’t they by the way) then by all means pontificate on the facts of the case that you know, but until then please set an example and remain silent and stop acting like a tabloid newspaper and stirring up what is already a sensitive issue.

    In the meantime Luis Saurez has no recourse or right to reply to the brickbats being hurled his way, an unenviable position for a man who has been damned with little in the way of  concrete evidence, by an organization whose previous levels of incompetence seem suddenly forgotten in everybody’s rush to claim the high moral ground.

    Patrick Evra as victim, you couldn’t make it up

  • Marty

    My willy is black.. I’m white, how fucked up is that?

    Really, this is about as nonsensical as the colour of my wang.

  • Negrito

    Spanish is my first language. If he called him Negro along with some other adjective you would definitely classiffy the comment as racist. If he called him negrito it was probably just some ‘friendly’ sledging and too much is being read into it.

  • Ohmary

    The author needs to get a life and so do I for reading all of that. All I wanted to know was what Suarez said to Evra and I almost lost the will to live. Don’t get washed up on Pygmy island any time soon

  • see sense

    he admitted saying it, found guilty, King Kennys Kopites accept it

  • Jmayoh

    we should never ever have given anyone the race card 
    as every idiot is using it now for stupid   things,
    people should be able to say what ever they want
    we are supposed  to be living in a free country  but idots from other countries come here  and change our laws  ,if they dont like what we do here  go home to your origional country  we dont want you here causing trouble
    enoc  powel  said this would happen and now there is a ressesion
    all this bullshit is comming out and there is more to come ,
    if the govenrment  should look at anything  they should lookat the excesive pay footballers arer getting  ,and stop it

  • Nikkola88

    thanks to gods that someone actually explains what suarez told to evra. I lived in South Africa, and example for you, you can call person “black” in SA. In USA you have to say “African-American”. Funny enough that “originals” are calling themselves in a “right” way, while americans are re-inventing new name for old people. Same goes for white or aryan or cauccassion people…

  • Rahscott

    Negrito is racist and demeaning, like the word pickaniny. Suarez obviously needs to attend the LFC Equality and Diversity course over the next eight weeks. Perhaps he will be able to come up with something outrageously funny as a goal-mouth put down when he returns after his ban. 

  • dave

    i watched cyril and laurie getting abused at the baggies, and if suarez only said negrito to evra, it does not compare at all. i think the real racsim is with the FA, old white blokes deciding what’s “racist” for everyone else, after decades of their own insensitivity. “negrito” was just”slap”, or “sledging”, more focussed on  on evra’s diminutive size rather than his colour, and the FA’s knee jerk reaction is only a reflection of their own racial naivety.

  • St1bs

    Enjoyed the article. Cheers.  I’ve always understood this sort of language in a mestizo nation to be more along the lines of “baldy”, “ginger”, “fatso”, “shortarse” – words which are capable of starting a fight or cementing a lifelong friendship.

    I assumed it was needle – sledging – but hardly a sieg heil.  I had hoped that LFC or Suarez would act mortified at the terrible cultural faux pas, but they brassed it out instead.  Dalgliesh could have saved a lot of bother and half the penalty if he’d had more grace.

    V disappointing.  Must do better.

  • DaveYid

    I’ve got really annoyed with this full-on witch-hunt following the John Terry incident because that is what it’s really been about the whole time.

    Once the John Terry incident came up and was punished, the FA then felt the need to look like they’re doing more about racism; and so they threw everything at convicting Suarez on almost NO EVIDENCE. Unless someone watching the footage can translate AND lip-read Uruguayan dialects of Spanish, there is no concrete evidence to convict Suarez on.

    THIS is where the Suarez incident and the Terry incident differ. We can lip read John Terry’s words clearly. But I’ve watched the Suarez clip and can’t make head nor tail of what he’s saying to Patrice Evra and vice-versa.

    BTW, not that it makes much difference – I’m not a Liverpool fan; I’m a Spurs fan. The anti-racist groups slating Liverpool are probably the same ones who tried interfering with the use of the word ‘yiddo’ at White Hart Lane.

    Racism is fuelled further by the politically correct and until they realise that and tone down their self-serving agenda, racism will never be completely stubbed out. How can it be stubbed out at the highest levels when the guy who runs the entire thing – Sepp Blatter – is sitting on his pedestal saying it can be solved with a handshake?

    Lead by example!

  • fcbforlife

    south american and latin americans share one race when compared to anyone else in the world.

    they are latinos, no matter if black white brown yellor or mixed.

    Evra called him a south american something… this is  a racial insult.

    Suarez just responded negrito to go along with it.

    nothing wrong with that.

    I hear whiteboy or whitey coming from blacks on tv whether it is fiction or reality Tv. And no one calls them rascist… and it is because they are not.

    its just words, unless one is using a straight up word like NIGGER, SPIC, CHINK, ´´SUDACA´´(racist slur for south americans of any race, in spain) Etc etc etc….then really the race card shouldnt be played for a word like negrito which doesnt mean shit

    FCB FOR LIFE
     

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