Apart from signing Stewart Downing at £20mil (RM98.3mil) – nothing wrong with the player, just the price tag – Kenny Dalglish has done very little wrong in his current spell as Liverpool manager. At least up until last weekend.
His comments asking for the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racism row to be settled quickly, to be “done and dusted” must be one of the stupidest things he’s ever said.
Evra accused Suarez of repeatedly making racist remarks towards him throughout the Liverpool vs Manchester United match just over two weeks ago, but unlike the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand case, YouTube hasn’t stepped forward with any evidence.
The Football Association have obviously been very careful moving forward with the investigation after Evra insisted on pursuing his complaint despite Suarez denying the allegations.
Dalglish, however, says the case is about “as clear cut an accusation” as it gets, so there shouldn’t be any problem sorting out who’s right and who’s wrong.
During an interview previewing the West Brom game, a reporter asked Dalglish if racism would ever be stamped out of the game, in the context of the allegations of the past fortnight.
“You have to prove it before you accuse it of not being stamped out,” snapped Dalglish.
The interviewer replied: “That’s why I said ‘allegations’.”
“You said ‘stamped out’,” was Dalglish’s terse reply. “I don’t think it’s prevalent in the game here and certainly not at this club. We’ve got a case going on ourselves which seems to be dragging its feet. We’d rather have it done and dusted.”
As he was elaborating, he suggested that Evra should face sanctions if he fails to provide evidence to prove his complaint.
“Whoever the guilty party is; the person who said it or the accuser, should get their due punishment,” he said.
“So we’ll look forward to our case coming to a conclusion. For me, I don’t see racism, as far as this club is concerned anyway, apparent in any way, shape or form.”
So just because Dalglish doesn’t believe that racism exists in football, we should get this investigation done and dusted as soon as possible, and apply pressure on the alleged victims to provide evidence or face sanctions, just so Liverpool can get back to their football?
You can’t rush these things because obviously they have the potential to ruin careers and reputations (yes, even John Terry’s rep would hit a new low).
It’s not like the FA are having fun “dragging their feet” over it. It’s a sensitive issue with serious ramifications and they want to get it just right. For Liverpool, the case could be a minor distraction for their star player and possibly other members of the playing staff. But for the FA, it could potentially taint the image of the entire Premier League.
Even Wayne Rooney’s England red card appeal has taken longer than the Suarez-Evra case. So what’s Dalglish on about?
And the case will in all likelihood be dismissed as there doesn’t seem to be any evidence supporting Evra’s claims. So why can’t Dalglish just go with it, instead of making these public comments that call into question the necessity of the thoroughness of such investigations?
Managers have a responsibility to speak up for their players, but it shouldn’t be done to the detriment of the global fight against racism, and they most certainly do not have to antagonise the alleged victim while they’re at it.
Of course, it would also be naive to think that there aren’t any bad apples out there who would misuse the race card, but Dalglish should have left it to the FA to decide on whether that has happened in this particular case. Labelling alleged victims of racist abuse as “accusers”, and putting pressure on them to back up their claims doesn’t help the bigger battle against racism.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas didn’t call for punishment for Terry’s accusers, even though his captain and the entire club have probably been even more negatively affected by their own racism row.
Villas-Boas hasn’t tried to rush the investigation either, merely providing a character witness for Terry before saying: “We have full backing for our player. The rest, we have to wait and see.”
There are more important things than football, and the fight against racism is one of them. The investigation has obviously had an impact on Chelsea Football Club, but Villas-Boas understood that it was necessary to let it run its course, whether it eventually absolves or condemns.
What Dalglish said was a mistake, and if the Liverpool fans around the world who so adore him start to believe that racism should be handled in this manner, then the efforts to stamp it out from the sport would have been given a huge setback. It’s something people can’t afford to sweep under the rug.
Just the other week, Lord Ousely, chairman of the Kick-It-Out anti-racism campaign, was trying to encourage the exact opposite, telling players like Ferdinand to speak out if they felt they had been racially abused.
“We want to give people the confidence to come forward, knowing that they won’t be victimised or penalised, and knowing they are doing the game the utmost good, because it is helping to deal with all sorts of unacceptable behaviour. We have to root racism out.
“Players like Howard Gayle and Ian Wright made stands against racism. Many players have had their lives ruined as a result of challenging unacceptable racist behaviour; players in the 1970s and 1980s just got kicked out of their clubs.
“The sacrifices they made will be wasted if people are not prepared to push forward with any grievances so that these can be heard and dealt with in a fair manner,” he said.
Dalglish was probably right in saying that racism isn’t prevalent in English football these days, but that doesn’t mean we should just power through the odd allegation that surfaces every now and then.
Sure, there aren’t any fans throwing bananas from the stands any more like they did at John Barnes, who played for Dalglish over 20 years ago.
But that’s why that reporter used the words “stamp out” when he asked Dalglish about it.
There should be absolutely no room for racism in the sport – or anywhere in the world for that matter – be it in the form of mass chanting and banana-throwing, or the whispered insult that doesn’t make it to YouTube. Asking for the authorities to speed through such allegations definitely won’t help achieve that.