Professor in Hispanic Studies dissects the FA’s Suarez report

L4 0TH 於 03/01/2012 發表 收藏文章
一篇全英文的報導,筆者為美國布朗大學Brown University西班牙語系文化研究部Aldo Mazzucchelli教授對英國足總就蘇亞雷斯報告的分析。有興趣者可登入以下網址詳閱。

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The following is written by award-winning Professor in Hispanic Studies at Brown University, Aldo Mazzucchelli.

I will first quote the FA document on the key point:

“90. Mr Evra’s evidence was that, in response to his question “Why did you kick me?”, Mr Suarez replied “Porque tu eres negro”. Mr Evra said that at the time Mr Suarez made that comment, he (Mr Evra) understood it to mean “Because you are a ******”. He now says that he believes the words used by Mr Suarez mean “Because you are black”.”

I read the whole FA report. I am a Uruguayan born in Montevideo, currently a university Literature and Language professor in the US. It is clear to me that the Spanish language reported by Evra is inconsistent with Luis Suárez’s way of speaking Spanish. I am surprised nobody (and especially, the Liverpool lawyers) raised this point. The key is that Evra makes Suárez to appear using forms of Spanish Suárez just wouldn’t use. Suárez cannot speak as Evra reported him speaking. And that strongly suggests that Evra made the whole thing up.

This is, I believe, key for the case and, if acknowledged, it would destroy Evra’s credibility. The fact that the FA has not noted that Suárez would never say “porque tu eres negro” (that is just not a way of speaking in the Rio de la Plata area), much less “porque tu es negro” or “tues negro” (as Comolli apparently stated), which are grammatically incorrect or just do not exist in Spanish. You don’t use the verb “ser” (to be) in the Rio de la Plata area that way. Luis Suarez would have said “porque SOS negro”. There is no possible variation or alternative to this whatsoever in our use of Spanish. And we of course don’t say “por que tu es negro” (as supposedly Comolli reported) because this is no Spanish syntax. In that sentence “es” is being wrongly conjugated in the third person of singular while it should have been conjugated in the second, “sos” (and never, I repeat, “eres”). Hence, I don’t know what Comolli heard from Suarez after the match, but I am positive he got it wrong–unless we believe that Suarez cannot even speak Spanish…

What follows to these is that Evra’s report on what Suarez said is unreliable, just because Evra depicts Suárez speaking in a form of Spanish Suárez just does not use.- Suárez cannot have said “porque tu eres negro”. He would have said–if at all he said anything– “porque sos negro”. And the problem is that this is not what Evra declared. Once again: Evra reports Suárez to have told him “porque tu eres negro” which just sound implausible. People from Montevideo or Buenos Aires just do NOT USE that verb “ser” (to be) that way. In such a case we would say “porque sos negro”. How come Evra reports Suárez speaking as he does not speak, and the FA accepts his word? Looks like Evra is making this up.

That said, let’s pay some attention to the incredibly sloppy way the FA has managed the Spanish language in their report.

“138. Mr Comolli said in his witness statement that Mr Suarez told him nothing happened. He said that there was one incident where he said sorry to Mr Evra and Mr Evra told him “Don’t touch me, South American” to which Mr Comolli thought Mr Suarez said he had replied “Por que, tu eres negro?”. (…) Mr Comolli confirmed under cross-examination that he believed that what he was told by Mr Suarez in this meeting was that the words he had used to Mr Evra translated as “Why, because you are black”.”

“Por que, tu eres negro?”…. ??!! This makes no sense. It is no Spanish. “Por qué” means “why” (and not “because” in this case). It is incorrectly spelled by the FA in their official report (they don’t seem to give a damn about Spanish, since they treat Spanish in such a careless way all along the report). It cannot be translated in a way that makes sense. Literally, if I had to translate it, it would be something like this: “why, you are black?” I have no idea what that could mean.

And Mr Comolli’s version is VERY different from Suarez’s own statement. Let’s see what Suarez himself reported:

“141. Mr Suarez’s version of this conversation was as follows. He said that Mr Comolli explained to him that Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr Evra had complained to the referee that Mr Suarez had racially insulted Mr Evra five times during the game. Mr Comolli asked Mr Suarez to tell him what happened. Mr Suarez told him that Mr Evra had said to him “Don’t touch me, South American”. Mr Suarez had said “Por que negro?”. Mr Suarez told Mr Comolli that this was the only thing he had said.”

What Suarez stated makes perfect sense in the Spanish we speak in the Rio de la Plata area –even though, again, it is ill transcripted by the FA. They should have written: “¿Por qué, negro?”. Then, I have no idea why, the FA believes in the incorrect Spanish of a non native speaker (Comolli), instead of crediting Suarez about his own words.

The linguistic abilities of the FA are completely under question here, and they seem to have been key in their grounding of the case. Let’s see how lousy their understanding and use of Spanish language is, by looking in detail at just another part of the reasons alleged by the FA:

“284 (…) Mr Comolli said to the referee that Mr Evra first said “you are South American” to Mr Suarez who responded with “Tues Negro” which translates as “you are black”.”

It is ridiculous that the FA, after careful consideration of everything, would even consider relevant whatever Mr Comolli might have understood from Suárez, when it is clear Mr Comolli can barely understands what he himself is trying to say in Spanish. I say this because “tues” is no Spanish word. And “tues negro” cannot be translated at all—let alone into what the FA says it means. It’s simply not a Spanish expression, so it cannot be “translated”. Comolli recollection from his chat with Suárez just after the match is unreliable. A pity since it arrived to the FA jury through a Liverpool official, but the language is so ridiculously wrong it makes me laugh.

In sum: Suárez could not have even said “tu eres” negro, which would be gramatically correct in Madrid, because in the Rio de la Plata area we would never say “tu eres negro”, but “vos SOS negro”. And that is a fact, not a matter of the opinion of anyone, not even the language experts consulted by the FA, of course. I am a native speaker of Montevideo, a PhD in Spanish by Stanford, and currently a professor of Spanish at Brown University, and if I was called to court on this, I would categorically deny that Suarez, who lived his adult life in Montevideo—despite being born in Salto—could have said other than “vos sos negro”. There is no way in the world he could have said to Evra, spontaneously and as a reaction to Evra’s words and attitudes, “porque tu eres negro”—and much less “tues negro”, that doesn’t exist. Simply “tues” is no Spanish.

Despite of that, the FA makes it stand and transcribes it in their report, and substantiate their conviction on these words.

Reading Evra’s statement, I understand it could happen that Evra misunderstood Suárez at some point. When Suárez said “¿por qué, negro?”, Evra might have assumed that as a racial insult, while Suárez—even in the heat of a discussion—could perfectly have said that as a way of normally expressing himself (not exactly to calm Evra down, but just because he normally would talk like that without thinking about it). This point is where the cultural clash seems more important, and it is working against Suárez because nobody in the jury (let alone the Daily Mail kind of media) seems to even start understanding the common way we use the term “negro” in the Rio de la Plata area. They heard their experts, and their experts explained the different options of our use of the word depending on different contexts and intentions. Then, the jury just decided that the whole thing was an equally aggressive clash by both sides, and because of that, they concluded Suárez could have not use the “negro” word to Evra in a descriptive way. Why? Their interpretation is not clear to me and doesn’t seem to be the only one possible. “¿Por qué, negro?” (after Evra said “Don’t touch me you South American”) is not offensive, but a question, and a very common one indeed, where “negro” is a DESCRIPTIVE noun, not an adjective loaded with a negative connotation. I completely understand why a British or an American might start not understanding the tone or the intention from Suárez. But I myself can clearly understand the account Suárez does and it seems consistent to me. I hear it more as a common (unmarked and uncharged) addressing to Evra.

Finally, the whole verdict seems to be grounded on 3 elements:

1) The FA tends to believe Evra is more reliable than Suarez (a purely subjective element)
2) The FA does not seem to have understood the Spanish language allegedly used –even though they grounded the verdict on their own interpretation of that very Spanish language.
3) They believe the word “negro” cannot be used just in a descriptive way in the context of a discussion–which means they don’t really understand how we do use it in the Rio de la Plata area. This made them feel Suarez was unreliable and probably aggravated them.

A pity. The most important thing here has to do with proportion. Suárez’s name has been destroyed and now the FA has shown there is NO EVIDENCE whatsoever of Suarez saying any of the things Evra attributes to him, exception made of Evra’s own statement.

Evra convinced the FA. And I wonder how much of racial prejudice (against the “wild animals” South Americans are supposed to be after Alf Ramsey’s famous remark) there is at play on the FA and media heads.


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