THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Suspension isn't equal to others

icon refs11 May ~ Let's get this absolutely straight from the off: I'm no apologist for Luis Suárez. Like most Liverpool fans, I'm guessing, I find his behaviour on the pitch a constant source of frustration. When he's not sinking his teeth into opponents' arms, he's usually niggling away at one or more defenders or getting involved in some minor scuffle somewhere. It appears his last instinct is to simply walk away and get on with it.

Yet for all his misdemeanours, the severity of his ten-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic has highlighted a more worrying aspect of the modern game: is the FA's judgement of a footballing crime really as democratic as they'd have us believe?

The recent endorsements offered by Roberto Mancini and Wayne Rooney (who greeted Gareth Bale's selection as PFA Player of the Year by bemoaning the fact it should've been a two-horse sprint between Robin van Persie and Suárez) suggests that the Liverpool striker has a fair degree of sympathy from within the profession.

But the FA's moral stance seems deeply flawed. It's interesting to note how swiftly both Jermain Defoe and the Spurs manager at the time, Martin Jol, moved to play down the former's bite on Javier Mascherano during a game against West Ham game in 2006. Jol joked that it was only a comical "nibble" while Defoe, who received just a yellow card and plenty of FA guff about being bound by FIFA rules over retroactive punishment, timidly said that frustration got the better of him. Ben Thatcher's horrendous blow to the face of Pedro Mendes, a premeditated act of GBH that resulted in emergency oxygen and a seizure, resulted in a shorter ban that Suárez.

More recently Callum McManaman's challenge on Massadio Haïdara went completely unpunished by both the referee and the FA. It's interesting to note that Newcastle boss Alan Pardew chose to voice his concerns about the FA's lack of clarity on what does, or does not, warrant action only after Suárez's ban was announced. Moreover, after John Terry was found guilty of abusing Anton Ferdinand, yet received a much lighter ban than Suárez did with Patrice Evra, there's still the festering issue of official FA policy and their justification of different "degrees of racism".

So just why are they coming down so heavily on Suárez? The notion that unruly foreigners need to be taught a thing or two still seems to persist among the governing elite in Britain, as was borne out by David Cameron's odd decision to publicly throw in his lot with the anti-Suárez brigade. Meanwhile, anyone who wondered whether xenophobic attitudes continue to exist within the FA would have had their suspicions strengthened by recent events. Rob Hughes

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