Hypocritical and cowardly football players. Those are the words I’ve been choking on for three or four days, but I’ve been thinking about them for a long time. Because there is a lot of marketing, a lot of talk, a lot of kneeling down to “fight racism.” Yet at the moment of showing courage, they weaken and turn a blind eye. And I don’t know what is worse.
As 2020 drew to a close, another event outraged me. The punishment handed out by the English Football Association (FA) for “racism” against Edinson Cavani, a talented Uruguayan striker who today plays for Manchester United, the most important club in English soccer.
I will quickly summarize the situation: during November, Cavani was brought on as a substitute during the second half of a match between Manchester and Sheffield United. The Red Devils were visitors and were losing 2-0, but Cavani burst in like a shark smelling blood; first handing out an assist to Bruno Fernandes and then scoring two goals, one in extremis, to come back and give his team the vital victory.
Then came what led to the case and provoked this release: a compliment, from a friend or supporter, arrived in Cavani after the match. “That’s how I love you, Matador,” the user put in the Instagram stories; Edinson replied, “Gracias, negrito,” which is a common expression in Uruguayan and Argentinian Spanish and can be translated as “Thank you, blackie,” but in an affable tone.
The FA then set off their police alarms, but they couldn’t hold out. They saw the word “negrito” (blackie) and they jumped on the Uruguayan as if he was going to detonate a bomb in the city of Manchester. They opened a month-long investigation for racism and discrimination and before the end of the fateful 2020 they announced the sanction: a GBP 100,000 fine and, worst of all, three games of suspension.
If you want to know, it is not the first time this has happened. Bernardo Silva, an excellent Portuguese footballer who plays for Manchester City, was also suspended for a match and GBP 50,000 last year for publishing a joke on his teammate Benjamin Mendy. The Portuguese put up a picture – I don’t know if it’s enough to be called a meme- where Mendy is compared as a child to the figure of “Conguitos,” a chocolate brand. The FA said categorically: this is racism and must be punished.
Both cases are absurd. The Portuguese made a joke that outraged the “excellence” and “puritanism” of the FA. But Cavani’s case is much more serious, it is Eurocentrism sanctioning the customs of not just Cavani or Uruguay, but many Latin American countries.
Intrinsically, the FA has exercised the power to call Cavani and anyone who dares to say the word ‘black’ or ‘blackie’ a racist. Just like that; death to the context and the cultural codes that identify us.
But I do not expect anything from the FA, nor from any institution empowered by the dogma of single thinking and political correctness. What really outrages me is the laziness, indifference, and fear of the soccer players, especially South Americans who play in the Premier League.
It is hard to believe. It is unacceptable, not a single player who plays in England defended Cavani; not even from Manchester United. Suddenly they were speechless; they kept their mouths shut in the face of probably the greatest racial injustice and discrimination against a player’s culture in the last five years.
But of course, they themselves go and kneel and put their fists up to go in rhythm and tune with Black Lives Matter. They must not know what BLM stands for, nor its ideology, nor its projects, nor the big woke business they run. But nothing is further from the truth; players and sports institutions know perfectly well “the good image” that putting Black Lives Matter on posters and jackets gives. Kneeling before a game is not fighting against racism. It is marketing, pure and simple.
Hypocrites and cowards
Why? Because when they need to support a colleague, they keep quiet for fear of cancellation or unimportance. I don’t know what is worse, to be honest: Fear or indifference. what I do know is that both are unacceptable and totally reprehensible.
Cavani was fined by the FA and banned for three games, which is no small thing, but the worst thing is that the federation called him a racist. But they are the real racists, in their ignorance and foolish puritanism.
I don’t care about the FA, I care that the hypocritical and cowardly players didn’t show up.
And this is because I admire them, I love soccer and the figure of the soccer player, they bring joy to hundreds of millions of people with their skill on the feel. But today, at least for me, they have disappointed as never before.
Last month I highlighted the case of Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann, for his decency and courage in denouncing the persecution of the Uyghurs by the Chinese regime and the complicity of telecommunications giant Huawei. The same was done by the Özil, who was criticized for supporting the Muslim ethnic minority. After his statements he was cancelled; he was taken out of the PES videogame and lost sponsors.
Griezmann’s and Özil’s demonstrations represent courage, but they are unremarkable because they aren’t trendy. It is far cooler for Neymar to write #BlackLivesMatter on Facebook.
The unjust sanctions Cavani require courage on all sides. That would be actually fighting against discrimination. Today’s footballers truly are hypocrites and cowards.
Note: by the time this column was written, not a single soccer player had come out to support Cavani. By January 3, 2021, the Uruguayan Soccer Players Association had issued a statement condemning the arbitrariness of the FA. Recognition goes to them.