The Uruguayan government and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez's Uruguay team-mates and coaching staff have leapt to the player's defence over his eight-match suspension in England for an alleged racist remark against Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
The English Football Association suspended Suarez for eight matches and fined him 40,000 pounds 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.
"This leaves us with a disagreeable feeling," Uruguay's National Sports Director Ernesto Irureta told the Montevideo newspaper Ultimas Noticias.
"A sanction like this is absurd, out of place and absolutely exaggerated. What's more, there's the story that the other sportsman [Evra] might have called Luis a 'sudaca'," he added, referring to an insulting Spanish term for South Americans.
"What's happening in Europe is a product of their problems and not a product of what happens among players and one of them concerns racism... we have a country with differences but a long way from those circumstances that occur in the Old Continent."
National team coach Oscar Tabarez's assistant Celso Otero said: "It's a shame he should have been sanctioned this way for something that should have remained on the pitch."
Otero added, though, that Suarez should reflect and learn from this experience as a leading figure in world football.
"This must make him be much more careful as to what he says... I don't doubt his quality as a human being...[but]... sometimes there are attempts to do justice by example with matters that are symbolic given the standing of the person punished."
Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) President Sebastian Bauza said the AUF was in touch with the FA and Liverpool through the Uruguayan embassy in England to give Suarez whatever backing he needed in his appeal against the sanction.
Players including Uruguay captain Diego Lugano 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," 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 Saint-Germain defender wrote on his personal website.
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 places... it'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."comments