Monday, August 12, 2013

Liverpool vs. Luis Suárez: On Rodgers’ dogmatism, rhetorical hypocrisy, and a potentially amicable resolution

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers has changed some of his pronouns, saying “we” (Liverpool) have to fix the divide between club and star player. That’s a change from last week, when the Reds boss was focused on “him”: detailing Luis Suárez’s disrespect; demanding an apologies; saying the player had wronged the club. Now, to Rodgers’ mind, the club’s part of solution, and although the second-year boss claims he needs assurances that the Uruguayan striker is committed to the team, he’s no longer mentioning apologies.
At least, he didn’t mention apologies on Liverpool’s website, were a series of quotes from the manager were published this evening, Liverpool time. Seemingly in response to a weekend uproar caused by the manager’s insinuation Suárez must apologize to fans before playing, Liverpool’s published this softened stance on Suárez’s status:
“[The situation] is something that we have to do everything we can to fix,” said Rodgers.
“There has been a lot said and a lot reported, and we have made a stance, as a club and as a manager, of the commitment and the standards required.
“If you don’t have that commitment, and those standards, then you won’t play. It’s as simple as that.
“If we have got to sit and wait, then so be it. But this is a club that has got great values, and we hope that the situation can be resolved amicably, and I am sure it will be.
“There’s no problem between me and him, it is quite calm. But obviously I have got to respect the club and the team.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, if they’re not pulling their weight then they are letting down the club, the city and everyone who has stood by them.
“So until I get that assurance that we are going to get nothing but 100 per cent commitment, then there will be no solution.”
Fair enough. You want to make sure one of your player’s mind is right before moving forward? That makes perfect sense.
The one thing that does seem a little off, though, is Rodgers’ constant references to club standards, alluding to Liverpool’s ethics as if they’re a sacred code etched in stone that middle-aged adventurers must pass over before drinking from the Holy Grail. Is there a team at this level doesn’t see itself requiring a certain standard of commitment? Is there another manager who doesn’t see a need “to respect the club and team”? Shouldn’t it go without saying that poor behavior lets down “the club, the city and everyone who has stood by them”?
Not to say Suárez hasn’t done these things, but the constant, high-minded pleas to nebulous values only serves to propagandize the issue. It’s also hypocritical, as the same ethical standards you’re asking from your player aren’t being observed by being unduly dogmatic in explaining an otherwise a regular conflict in world soccer. If you’re asking the player to respect the fans and honor his contract, why not respect fans’ intelligence and stay away from propaganda?
Liverpool has a want-away player – not a spectacularly rare thing (just go down the list of teams in the Premier League; almost every one has seen a star player seek a move in recent times). They don’t want to let him go; again, not a remarkably rare occurrence in today’s game. Why can’t Rodgers just explain things on those terms rather than make Liverpool out of be the keepers of a secret code of honor, one that Suárez and his management are intent on destroying? Yes, Suárez looks petulant and immature, but there’s no need to resort to hypocrisy to provide a contrast. Suárez is perfectly capable of making himself look bad on his own.
Perhaps all this — this overcompensation — reflects the new Liverpool’s insecurities. They did have Fernando Torres taken from them. They do have people calling about other players (Daniel Agger). And they aren’t in Champions League. There is a reason why Suárez would want to leave, and in trying to keep him from making a move so many others would pursue, they’re rightly using every club in the bag. They’ve tried to reason with him. They’re tried to tell him how important he is. They’ve tried to merely say no. But in the face of persistent questions and rumor, they’re now using this convenient dogmatism as a means of explaining why they won’t play ball; why now, after all the Suárez has done in a Liverpool kit, they’re finally taking some stands.
Rodgers isn’t the first person to evoke this rhetoric, but it isn’t any more apt now than when Alex Ferguson applied it to Wayne Rooney (or when numerous other managers have tried to shame their want-away stars). Ultimately, these are just negotiating ploys – emotional appeals to loyalists who see their club as having particular values, morals, and standards (a “[club name] Way”), as if other clubs of the same size don’t see themselves the exact same way.
Here’s hoping Suárez and Liverpool reconcile. Or the player apologized. Because all this hypocritical talk about Liverpool’s standards is getting a little disrespectful.
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