LONDON: Luis Suarez, Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish have apologised for storm stirred up by the ‘handshake that wasn’t’ at Old Trafford on Saturday writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, England defender Rio Ferdinand and players’ union leaders Gordon Taylor were among the fierce critics of Uruguay forward Suarez for pouring fuel on the fire before the game.
Suarez deliberately ignored the handshake offered, in the pre-match ritual, by Patrice Evra who had been racially abused by the Liverpool man in the clubs’ league game at Anfield last October; Suarez was about to make his first start since returning from an eight-game ban for the incident.
The anger generated by that pre-match stand-off spilled over not so much in the game itself as between both sets of players as they left the pitch at half-time and at the end of the game.
Evra, having taken the moral high ground in offering a handshake, came in for criticism himself – including, unusually, from Ferguson – for his effusive (i.e., over the top) celebration of United’s 2-1 win after the final whistle.
Initially Suarez wrote on his Twitter account: “We lost and are sad after such a great effort. I am disappointed because not everything is how it looks” (“Perdemos e estamos tristes pois fizemos um grande esforço. Estou decepcionado porque nem tudo é o que parece”).
He then followed up with an apology, so did managing director Ian Ayre and so did manager Dalglish.
First came Suarez, in a statement published on the official Liverpool website stating: “I have spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong. I’ve not only let him down but also the Club and what it stands for and I’m sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.
“I should have shaken Patrice Evra’s hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football.”
Ayre made it plain in a simultaneous statement that the player had been given a dressing-down by the club for his behaviour.
He said: “We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday’s game.
“The player had told us beforehand that he would, but then chose not to do so. He was wrong to mislead us and wrong not to offer his hand to Patrice Evra. He has not only let himself down but also Kenny Dalglish, his teammates and the club. It has been made absolutely clear to Luis Suarez that his behaviour was not acceptable.
“Luis Suarez has now apologised for his actions which was the right thing to do. However, all of us have a duty to behave in a responsible manner and we hope that he now understands what is expected of anyone representing Liverpool Football Club.”
Dalglish followed up, with particular reference to his controversial TV interview immediately after the final whistle.
He said: “Ian Ayre has made the club’s position absolutely clear and it is right that Luis Suarez has now apologised for what happened at Old Trafford. To be honest, I was shocked to hear that the player had not shaken hands having been told earlier in the week that he would do.
“But, as Ian said earlier, all of us have a responsibility to represent this club in a fit and proper manner and that applies equally to me as Liverpool manager.
“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”
United were quick to accept the olive branches. Their own response said: “Manchester United thanks Liverpool for the apologies issued following Saturday’s game. Everyone at Old Trafford wants to move on from this. The history of our two great clubs is one of success and rivalry unparalleled in British football. That should be the focus in the future of all those who love the clubs.”
Downing Street sources have indicated that Prime Minister David Cameroon will summoning a summit to address the apparent resurgence of racial attitudes in and around sport in general and football in particular.
Fabio Capello quit this past week as manager of England after a row with the Football Association sparked by a racial abuse court case centred on a row between Chelsea’s John Terry and QPR’s Anton Ferdinand; Terry denies the allegation which comes to court in mid-July.