Story by Sarah Mobbs
I was hoping not to bang on too much about Suarez this week. I thought last week I had covered all of what I really wanted to say, and then I saw a story in the paper last Saturday morning that really concerned me. We’ve all by now seen the reactions to Suarez’ punishment from FIFA, and we’ve all heard the news about how Barcelona wanted him to apologise publicly before they would consider the purchase from Liverpool. Now, negotiations are well underway between the two clubs regarding the hefty £80m price tag on Suarez’ (not inconsiderably sized) head. I’m sure Liverpool (both club and fans) are coming round to the idea of binning Suarez off, he’s helped them to get back into the game and back into the top 4 of the Premier League, but that itself has come at a price.
The story that shook me then, was featured on the front page of The Sun “news” paper last week. A young lad of 8 bit a school mate on the wrist during a game of football in the school yard. This in itself, wasn’t all that shocking, kids bite, albeit by this age they’ve usually grown out of it, but it happens. What bothered me was, when asked why he had bitten his friend, the lad responded that it was because “Professional footballers do it…” now, we all know, that when he says “Professional footballers” he means one in particular; Suarez. As a Liverpool fan the lad has seen him do it before, and as a huge Suarez fan, he continued to watch (at least for the one more match) Uruguay in the World Cup and so will have seen it happen again, and at that early stage, without even so much as a red card because the referee did not see what happened.
There was another story featured on a parenting website last year (April 2013) following Suarez’ attack on Chelsea’s Ivanovic, claiming that a boy of 11 had bitten another class mate, proclaiming that he was going “to do a Luis Suarez” where he proceeded to sink his teeth into the other boy. At 8 and 11 boys, I wouldn’t go around biting people too often, you only have to look at Suarez to see that what it does to your teeth, and that should be deterrent enough – ooops, did I just put that in print?
At this point, I’d like to make clear that both sets of parents completely blamed Suarez for the actions of their children. Although I agree, totally and whole-heartedly, that he is an incredibly poor role model for young and impressionable football fans, the whole blame cannot be put on him. As I said last week, to bite three people (not to mention his other indiscretions on the pitch) there must be something really wrong with him, or, he was never taught not to bite. I don’t have children, I don’t know if I ever will, but I don’t feel you can blame your child’s violent actions on a footballer, professional or not. As a child one of the first things I learnt, after my “please”s and “thank you”s was “do as I say, not as I do” – meaning just because you see someone else doing something, does not mean it is ok for you to do it too. This fact though, does not excuse Suarez fully; these parents put their trust in role models of all kinds, and expect, as people in the public eye, that footballers (especially the ones, like Suarez who have children of their own) would set better examples.
This sort of brings me back to the Barcelona transfer. Football now, is not just a sport; it’s an industry, a business. Most schools and businesses have a “3 strikes and you’re out” policy. I certainly would not expect to have 3 chances if I went around biting people at work, so why should Suarez, or any other footballer. This is actually the fourth time he has been sanctioned for bad behaviour by various foot-balling associations. Certainly, the 8 year old who bit his pal is now facing expulsion after one episode, one which will surely have an effect on the opinion of him at any new school he may have to attend. And I have no doubt, if you were sacked from a job for similar offences, you would struggle to find someone else to take you on. So why should footballers be treated any differently? I heard the other day that part of the appeal was to be that the ban was cutting off Suarez’ way to make a living, and a life-long ban would surely do this. But why is it that we think that 4 months will make an example of him? Sure, he’s not allowed to train with his teams, but he has been given the go-ahead to take a medical should Barca decide to take him on, and when that 4 months is up, I have no doubt in my mind that he’ll bounce back. He’s a world class player and whichever team ends up with him, I’m sure they’ll invest a lot of time and effort to get him back fighting fit.
I do find it interesting that there was no mention in the articles I read though, that neither of the sets of parents appear to mention how they would be disciplining their children. They want these celebrities etc to set examples for their children, but they are leaving it the schools to decide their children’s fates. Perhaps now they’ve seen what letting idols be role models can do, they might start thinking about setting a few examples of their own…. #justsaying