I’m not a football fan. The ‘beautiful game’ is supposed to unite the nation, but I just can’t get excited about it. I’ve been to two football matches and I left the first watery eyed after being sprayed the with tear gas; I left the second wanting to cry tears of boredom. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the sport I did see today’s story about the footballer that bit one of his opponents. Luis Suarez, who plays for Liverpool, dug his pearly whites into Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
After seeing the news report on television I naturally assumed the footballer would be sacked. If I sunk my teeth into a colleague, I assume the consequences would be grave. If, during a meeting where a competitor company was present, I lunged across the table and decided to make lunch meat out of their employee I assume I’d find myself not only unemployed, but also in police custody.
After reading the online news reports this afternoon I realised my assumptions could not have been more wrong. Suarez’s bosses are clearly much more lenient than mine. Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre said that Suarez could stay at the club, but that they needed “to work with him on his discipline.” To my mind, that’s one very understanding employer.
I thought it was interesting that on the same day this story hit the media the Daily Mail led with the headline: ‘A GENERATION OF UNRULY TODDLERS’. Liz Truss MP, Minister for Schools, has spoken out about the need for greater discipline and better-skilled staff in nurseries. Now, the Daily Mail headline ticked all the boxes of a Daily Mail headline; inflammatory, controversial and inaccurate. But it did make me think about the example Luis Suarez is setting to the thousands of youngsters who all dream of being footballers. Through my research for this blog post I’ve discovered that this isn’t the first time Suarez has been abusive; he’s been accused of racist and violent behaviour on a number of occasions. Maybe he went to a bad nursery school, or maybe he just needs to do a bit more ‘work on his discipline’, either way he’s been lucky to keep his job.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about celebrity sports stars getting away with behaviour which would be considered completely unacceptable (not to mention illegal) for the rest of the public. What really bugs me about this situation though isn’t the double-standard, it’s the fact that the media doesn’t even question the double-standard. I actually agree with Liz Truss, I don’t think it’s ever too early to teach good manners. But children need to have that reinforced by the adult world, and when celebrities can repeatedly get away with despicable behaviour I worry about them ‘learning by example’.
It’s just been announced that Suarez has been charged by the FA. I hope they are prepared to instill the discipline that Liverpool hasn’t so far.