December 21, 2011

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez's Uruguay team mates have leapt to his defence over his eight-match suspension in England for an alleged racist remark against Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

They said people in Uruguay, where a large percentage of the population is black or of mixed race, were not racist and used terms such as 'negro' in an affectionate manner or as nicknames.

"I can't believe it. They're making a big mistake. It's obvious that in England there's a racism problem they're trying to eradicate, and that's good, but this sentence has no solid arguments," Uruguay captain Diego Lugano said.

"Luis is a victim. I can't understand how a player like Evra can do this. He's breaking all the codes of football. We all know what kind of person Luis is and the values he has," the Paris St Germain defender wrote on his personal website (

The English FA suspended Suarez for eight matches and fined him 40,000 pounds ($62,800) for racially abusing Evra during a Premier League match at Anfield in October, saying he used "insulting words" in a reference to the French international's colour.

Lazio winger Alvaro Gonzalez, who won the Copa America with Uruguay in Argentina in July, said: "All of us who know Luis, we know that if he made this remark it wasn't (meant to be) insulting.

"We Uruguayans, and more so in football, use terms that can be wrongly interpreted by people from other's not a reason to call a Uruguayan a racist," he was quoted as saying by the Montevideo newspaper El Pais.

Gonzalez said Uruguay had a high percentage of people of African descent and that "Uruguayans often call friends 'negro' affectionately".

"Maybe we end up paying for entering other, perhaps more closed cultures and which surely have discriminated against Evra at some moment for him to feel attacked in this situation."

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