Uruguayans perplexed by English FA investigation into Cavani

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Southampton v Manchester United - St Mary's Stadium, Southampton, Britain - November 29, 2020 Manchester United's Edinson Cavani celebrates scoring their second goal with Victor Lindelof Pool via REUTERS/Mike Hewitt

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – The English Football Association’s investigation into Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani’s use of the word ‘negrito’ has generated surprise and irritation in his homeland Uruguay.

Cavani wrote the word, which is a diminutive version of ‘black’ and is often used affectionately in parts of Latin America to describe a person with dark skin or hair, in an Instagram post after he scored two goals in United’s 3-2 Premier League win at Southampton at the weekend.

When Cavani, 33, was informed the term could be considered offensive he deleted the post and apologised.

“The message I posted after the game on Sunday was intended as an affectionate greeting to a friend, thanking him for his congratulations after the game,” Cavani wrote in a statement.

“The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence to anyone. I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently. I would like to sincerely apologise for this.”

However, the FA opened an investigation and the Uruguayan could face a three-game ban for using discriminatory or racist language.

That was unfathomable to many Uruguayans, who often use the word as a term of endearment.

Linguist Amparo Fernandez said the case was an example of attempts to “globalise meanings”, a task he said was impossible because it stripped words of their contexts.

“The person using it (Cavani) does not use it at all” as a racial insult, Fernandez told Reuters.

Fernandez said the Spanish Dictionary of Uruguay, a work of more than 10,000 words and phrases used mostly in the small South American nation, defines negrito in different ways, including as a habitual term of endearment.

The Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary, which regulates use of the Spanish language, defines it as a “word used tenderly by married people, couples or people who want the best for each other” in parts of Andalucia and the Americas.

However, Fernandez also said Afro-Uruguayan communities had increasingly expressed their unease at the word and some considered it discriminatory.

On the streets of Montevideo, locals appeared baffled at the thought that their star striker facing disciplinary proceedings for his post.

Ana Maria Soca, a 47-year old domestic worker, said the word “was a way of showing affection that mothers call their babies, no matter the colour of their skin”.

PE teacher Martin Oliveira said he used the word with his nearest and dearest and called the investigation “madness”.

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