It is the non-handshake that shook the world.
The first meeting between Patrice Evra of Manchester United and Luis Suarez of Liverpool since the latter’s eight-match ban for racially abusing the Senegalese-born, French raised international degenerated into a grudge-match for the stupid and juvenile failure of the Uruguyan to shake Evra’s hand in the pre-match formalities.
As expected these days, the twitter-verse exploded into howls of condemnation from Red Devils fans, and inexcusable, pathetic defences of Suarez’s actions from Liverpool die-hards.
If Suarez’s on-pitch antics were a disgrace, then some Manchester United fans hardly covered themselves in glory with some truly appalling tweets with regards to what should happen to Luis. Some perspective: he didn’t shake his hand. He did not shoot Bambi. He did not shoot anyone.
I am – for the record – a Liverpool supporter. This column is not in any way a defence of Luis Suarez. His actions brought the game into disrepute and it is odds-on that the FA will have its say on the matter as the week progresses.
Short of the famed Rangers V Celtic rivalry, there is no fiercer and bitter hatred of an opposition than that of Manchester United and Liverpool. Granted; to pull such a move at Old Trafford is, in one sense, ballsy. But what was a match to propel United to the top of the English Premier League table, or to see Liverpool back into the top four became a grudge match the likes of which I doubt I’ll ever see again.
If you think that the players weren’t affected by the Old Trafford masses baying for Merseyside blood (with the exception of Wayne Rooney, natch) you’re either deaf or stupid. Clubs with the quality of the present Manchester City line-up, or perhaps – in a Champions League tie setting – Barcelona can pull the tiger’s tail. Suarez’s actions wrote a check that this Liverpool squad couldn’t possibly hope to cash. In a sense it was game over before the whistle to start the game had even been blown.
In the bigger picture, it appears – judging from a raft of public post match comments by other black EPL players, Suarez’s hand will be shunned when it is offered in pre-game formalities as a statement against racism. Accordingly, Suarez’s position at Anfield and in the EPL as a whole is fast becoming untenable.
Liverpool players now have to cope with the added incentive for opposition teams to lay waste to the Uruguayan on the field, and as their team-mate, they will be asked to stand by him – as Martin Skrtel will testify to.
It remains to be seen how Liverpool FC deal with Saturday’s events. So far, the club has gone off the reservation – attempting to instigate an unjustifiable ‘victim’ mentality (based on Manager Dalgleish’s post match antics). Accordingly, the club needs to answer a number of questions in the aftermath of the game.
Was Suarez’s snub of Evra a pre-mediated move? If not, the club must force Suarez to apologise publicly. Today would be the appropriate time to see that happen. If it was done with the knowledge of management and staff, those who ‘signed off’ must resign now.
The other side of this is the off-field fall out. Extreme elements of The Kop and the willingness of Kenny Dalgleish to stand by Suarez no matter what, are fast tarring the more moderate of Liverpool supporters with a brush I resent: that of a racist.
Suarez was found guilty, did 8 weeks on the sidelines, and the original incident was – for all intents and purposes – over. Needlessly, we’re back to a he-said-he-said pissing contest that no one will win because of a petulant act that appears to have been indulged by his boss.
No one at Liverpool wins.