Luis Suarez has brought shame on English football
Manchester United's Patrice Evra (right) celebrates in front of Liverpool's Luis Suarez (AP Image)
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“We are extremely disappointed Luis Súarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday’s game,” read a statement from Liverpool FC in the wake of an astonishing clash with Manchester United.
So they should be disappointed, for Súarez has brought the game into disrepute and sullied the image of one of England’s most storied clubs.
The build-up to his snub needs little introduction.
The Uruguayan was handed an eight-game suspension and fined £40,000 for racially abusing United defender Patrice Evra when the two sides met at Anfield last October.
Despite protesting his innocence, a Football Association panel found Suarez directed the Spanish version of “negro” at Evra five times – something renowned South American football expert Tim Vickery argued wasn’t necessarily racist.
And it’s clear from Súarez’s behaviour on Saturday he felt no contrition for using those words, no matter how Evra felt about the matter.
Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t far off the mark when he suggested the Uruguayan could have started a riot with his petulant refusal to shake Evra’s hand.
Amid the madness was a moment of almost surreal comedy when Súarez reacted in amazement at Rio Ferdinand’s subsequent refusal to shake the Liverpool striker’s hand.
It showed just how out of touch the Uruguayan has been with reality throughout the wretched affair.
And his club haven’t been much better, with Liverpool only now criticising the Uruguyan for “misleading” them about his intentions to make amends in Manchester.
Even that comes after Kenny Dalglish defended Súarez in his post-match interviews.
It also means little in comparison to Liverpool’s reprehensible behaviour against Wigan in December, when the entire squad warmed up in matching Súarez T-shirts – a gesture Dalglish described as a show of solidarity for their striker.
The carefully cultivated victim mentality is breathtaking.
No longer a big club in Premier League terms, it’s as though Liverpool will stop at nothing to try and snatch away whatever piece of the limelight they can get.
Watching Saturday’s clash with a colleague of mine, I suggested it was a shame the serious social issue of racism was being trivialised by the childish antics of a group of adults who should know better.
“It makes for great drama though,” he replied – an assessment impossible to disagree with.
Saturday’s Old Trafford slugfest was absorbing from start to finish.
Watching on TV it was clear the atmosphere in the stands was at boiling point, and not surprisingly United fans did nothing to defuse the situation, with all copies of the fanzine ‘Red Issue’ confiscated by police because it contained a mock Ku Klux Klan cut-out.
Evra and Rio Ferdinand soon clattered into each other after kick-off as both tried to poleaxe Súarez.
A Liverpudlian then took control of the game, but sadly for Liverpool fans he was wearing a United jersey, as Wayne Rooney proved for the umpteenth time how much of a one-man team United are.
If Rio Ferdinand was stoic before kick-off he was decidedly unheroic for the next 90 minutes, as the England defender endured another forgettable outing – capped off by the mistake which saw the hated Súarez get his goal.
Perhaps Ferdinand had his mind on other matters, with younger brother Anton still embroiled in a racism row of his own with ex-England captain John Terry.
There’s an interesting contrast in the coverage of both the Súarez affair and the Terry case, with the notoriously dogged English press less effusive in its condemnation of the former England skipper.
It’s tempting to suggest Súarez is caught up in his own race-related smear campaign – the victim of a xenophobic press gang hellbent on forcing an admission of guilt.
But whatever sympathy one might have had for the Uruguayan dissipated on Saturday.
Faced with the chance of redemption, Luis Súarez instead brought shame on himself and English football – all in front of a global audience of millions.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman