Abuela de Luis Suarez: `es mi culpa lo que hizo Luis´
Chicas, lamento pero la nota esta en ingles, aprendan!
Luis Suarez's granny reveals she used to call him 'Mi Negrito'
'It's my fault he said what he did'
A young Luis Suarez (in blue) and brother Maxi Miliana with grandmother Lile Rene.
Pictures: SCOTT HORNBY
By OLIVER HARVEY in Uruguay
Published: 26th February 2012
LILA PIRIZ spreads the yellowing photos of her grandson Luis Suarez on her dining room table and beams the warm smile of cherished family moments remembered.
There's little Luis in his first football team, his blue shorts flapping to his knees. In another Luis the grinning schoolboy is perched on his proud granny's lap.
Gently clasping the pictures for me to see, pensioner Lila says again and again in Spanish: "Mi negrito, mi negrito." It is, she explains with moist eyes, her pet name for the £23million Liverpool striker, which translates as "My little black boy".
In the poverty-blighted cerro barrio, or hill neighbourhood, of Suarez's home city of Salto, a river port of 100,000 in north west Uruguay, it is a common nickname.
Mum-of-six Lila, 73, revealed: "This is a normal way of speaking in Uruguay. It's like calling a loved one honey, a sweet expression to use for someone."
Negrito was also the word media reports claimed Suarez, 25, used in his now infamous on-field spat with Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. In his defence to the FA Suarez claimed that what he said was commonly used as a friendly form of address in Uruguay.
An independent FA commission, however, banned the South American for eight matches, ruling that he called Evra a "negro" — Spanish for black — seven times in around two minutes. Suarez's evidence was labelled unreliable.
Liverpool were furious at the ruling, pointing out that their player's own grandfather was black.
Tensions between the two players flared again when the two sides met earlier this month and Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand. Suarez later apologised for his behaviour. The flashpoint between world famous stars from England's two most decorated sides helped prompt PM David Cameron last week to insist the FA come up with a plan to tackle racism in football.
Lila is quick to defend her grandson, a national hero in football-mad Uruguay, saying: "Using the word negro is not racist here.
"It's normal. It's a word people use with their friends. It's like calling someone fat, thin or whatever.
"My grandson shouldn't have been banned. Absolutely not. Poor Luis loves his football so much. It's a terrible punishment for him. I used to call him that name."
Salto is a humid spot on the Rio Uruguay and where Suarez began his rise from poverty-blighted street footballer to Premier League and World Cup superstar.
Lila's son, former soldier Rodolfo, married local girl Sandra Diaz when she was just 15 and he was some five years older. They had six children with Luis, the fourth eldest, arriving in January 1987.
Sipping her "mate" — a local herbal drink containing caffeine — Lila added: "There was never much money. Rodolfo, who was a good footballer himself, later worked in a biscuit factory and was a bell boy in a hotel."
Today Lila shares a modest single-storey home with her now frail ex-soldier husband Atacildo, 79, close to the barracks of the Uruguayan army's 7th Battalion.
She explains that it was on the base's bumpy pitch that Luis played his first games of football as a precocious four-year-old.
"It was just football, football, football with him," Lila says. "He seemed to have a ball at his feet as soon as he could walk."
Today the pitch is grazed by three horses, a pile of manure lying close to the centre circle.
His granny — who survives on a modest state pension — says: "Luis played with all the boys in the neighbourhood, black boys too. He was friends with everyone."
Nearby is the ramshackle, paint-peeled home where Rodolfo and Sandra began married life and had their first three children. Today the house is occupied by Sandra's brother Jorge, 41, and his family, who sell logs for a living.
Luis' cousin Jorge Diaz, 18, shows me a photo of his father Jorge Snr and grandfather Alberto, a former football referee and sugar factory worker who died from a heart attack seven years ago. Luis, a biology student, explains: "Alberto was mixed race, dark-skinned. The idea that his grandson Luis is racist is ridiculous."
When Luis was seven, mum Sandra moved the family 260 miles south to Montevideo, Uruguay's teeming capital of 1.6million people, to escape Salto's poverty.
Down a potholed gravel track in suburban Solymar – 16 miles from central Montevideo – Sandra can be found today working behind the counter of the bakery that Luis bought her five years ago.
A grandmother of nine, 47-year-old Sandra says: "My marriage to Rodolfo broke up and I had to go out to work to support the family.
"I worked as a cleaner in peoples' houses and as a hospital security guard while my mother, Pelusa, looked after the children. It was tough but we managed."
When Luis' elder brother Paolo got his break as a pro footballer he helped supplement Sandra's wages. She later married a local building worker and had a seventh child. Football, Sandra said, was Luis' great passion. At 14 he joined Uruguay's most successful club, Nacional de Montevideo, and by 16 he was part of the first team squad. On one infamous occasion, however, the young prodigy reverted to the rough and tumble football of the streets.
Nacional's technical director, Daniel Enriquez, remembers: "He was 15 and got a red card. He was angry, stormed over to the referee and headbutted him. The referee had a broken nose and was bleeding like a cow.
"We punished Luis heavily and told him it was the end. But his brother Paolo worked with us to point him in the right direction."
Suarez joined Dutch club Groningen after his childhood sweetheart Sofia Balbi moved to Europe with her family. He later moved to Ajax, then to Liverpool last year for £23million. He and Sofia married in 2009 and had their first daughter, Delfina, a year later.
His mum says of the Evra furore: "All of Uruguay is behind Luis. He is not at fault. Our family has black and mixed race members. Luis never had any problems with people of different races."
The nation's most revered football pundit, Dr Jorge da Silveira, 68, believes Suarez did nothing wrong. "In Uruguay we have a code. What happens on the football field stays on the field," the TV and radio commentator explains.
"All sorts of insults are made but when the game is over, it's over. The word negro in Spanish doesn't have the connotations it has in the UK."
Uruguay's black 2002 World Cup striker Richard "Chengue" Morales says he and his family have never experienced discrimination in Uruguay, in or out of football.
"I wouldn't care if someone called me negro or negrito even if they were angry," he says. "But in England it appears you can't do that or you will be crucified."
The dad-of-one, 37, who now scouts for young footballing talent in his homeland, adds: "I think Suarez should leave England after what has been done to his good name and go to Spain, where he will feel much more at home."
Patrice Evra himself agrees with granny Lila that her "negrito" is no racist.
The lesson is that it's not just words we use that can be hurtful but the ways in which we use them.