I MAKE the FA right over Edinson Cavani.
I get the upset of Manchester United ’s fans. I understand that the striker’s three-match ban is far harsher than that of Manchester city playmaker Bernardo Silva over a racially offensive tweet.
With Cavani clearly confounding expectations to make himself important to a United side ready to launch a challenge for the title, his suspension has brought his momentum to a halt which is a shame. His experience could even have helped United to avoid defeat to rivals City in last night’s Carabao Cup semi-final.
The FA, however, are right.
We asked for zero tolerance in football. We asked for a tougher line on the culture of racially offensive language.
This is what zero tolerance looks like.
Silva’s 2019 tweet, which the FA found constituted an “aggravated breach” of their rules on social media behaviour, earned him a one-match ban, a £50,000 fine and an order to undergo an education course.
Since then the FA have changed their regulations. Last summer they made it clear that anyone found guilty of an “aggravated breach” of their social media rules would face a minimum three-match ban. Whatever his intention – few people believe there was anything malicious in it – Cavani’s reference to his friend’s colour in his Instagram post fell foul of those tightened regulations.
I’ve been as critical as anyone of the FA on the issue of race but this punishment shows they are doing their best to listen and to deliver the kind of hardline sanction that the players themselves are calling for.
Twenty years into working on football for the Daily Mirror, the arguments remain more or less the same. ‘You have to understand what it means’, ‘The interpretation is something completely different in his own country.’
Cavani words on social media – ‘Gracias negrito’ translate to: “Thanks, little black man”, “Thanks Blackie” or “Thanks Black”.
I don’t know a single person who would appreciate being referred to in such a way.
If you are among the few that would, knock yourself out. I wouldn’t and the FA are right to go in strong.
According to the FA’s written reasons, Cavani’s mate, the person to whom the message was sent, is caucasian. Of course he’d have no issue with the term.
But would an Premier League manager, aiming the term at a player, be allowed to use it on the basis that Uruguayans do and don’t mean anything by it? No.
It may well be a term of affection in Uruguay. Does that, however, make it right in Europe? No.
Cavani’s international team-mates and the Uruguay Players’ Union are stamping their feet in a huff, firing off angry statements in shows of solidarity – but they are they in the right? No.
In fact, their anger underlines the fact that they too are in need of an education course. In countries around the world there all sorts of cultural norms we must all observe. It goes without saying that language is one of them.
If you want someone to rail at, turn your frustrations on Manchester United on whom it was incumbent to make their summer signing aware of the well-documented trouble his countryman, Luis Suarez found himself over language as a Liverpool player.
As a matter of fact, Suarez sharing statements backing Cavani on social media is rather closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. He could easily have genned up his mate once he knew he was moving to the north West.
As Europe wakes up to the offence that even the supposedly well-meaning terms will carry, the onus will be on all clubs signing players from other territories to educate them.
It is not the FA’s job to do that.