This is an Arsenal blog. However, the weekend was overshadowed by incidents in the Manchester United vs Liverpool match.
Now, here are two clubs, the two most successive in England, and with a rivalry unmatched, and 37 titles between them. But, it all had to boil down to one thing. Luis Suarez deciding not to shake Patrice Evra’s hands.
It had all started in the earlier clash between these two teams in October at Anfield, which ended in a 1-1 draw. After the match, the Uruguyan was accused of racially abusing the French left-back. According to the statement given by Evra, Suarez said to him during the game “I don’t speak to blacks”, and “Because you are a black”, after an earlier kick on Evra. Moreover, he called Evra ‘negro’ 5 times during the game. Suarez pleaded innocent, saying he had used the term ‘negro’ in a friendly manner, and that such words are commonplace in his native Uruguay. But, not ‘native’ enough for the FA, who slapped him with a 8 match ban.
Liverpool were visibly aghast with the verdict, and came out with t-shirts to support their star striker, in the away match at Wigan. This lead to more criticism of both Suarez and Liverpool, who, in the view of many, were supporting racist behavior. Liverpool, despite standing by their statement, that Suarez was innocent, eventually decided not to appeal against the ban, and Suarez sat out the next 8 domestic matches.
One of the matches he sat out, was the epic FA Cup 4th Round clash, against, yes, Manchester United, at Anfield. Evra was booed throughout the game. Liverpool had earlier decided to cut allocation for United supporters, in an effort to calm tensions between the clubs. Liverpool eventually went through 2-1 thanks to a 88th minute at the Kop end, from Dirk Kuyt.
A few days later, Suarez returned to the Liverpool team in a home match against Tottenham, where he came on as a sub. He was in the headlines again, for a miscued kick, which landed on the midriff of Spu*s midfielder Scott Parker. However, the immediate reaction of Suarez, was proof enough that it was not intentional.
Moving on, all cameras were on Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez as they ambled for the customary hand-shake. Suarez avoided Evra’s hand-shake, which infuriated the Manchester United skipper. He held Suarez’s hand, but immediately let go, after being intervened by the referees. Suarez continued, head down. Rio Ferdinand, whose own brother Anton Ferdinand, was abuse by Chelsea captain, John Terry, declined Suarez’s hand. The tone was set for a fiery encounter. Every time Suarez got hold of the ball, he was met with a chorus of boos from all ends of Old Trafford, much similar to the treatment meted out to Patrice Evra, weeks earlier.
At half-time it seemed, the Uruguyan had lost his head, as he angrily holted the ball into the technical area before he made his way to the dressing room. Police and stewards were called upon to defuse the tension. The second half, began with Wayne Rooney in devastating mood.
He scored two quickfire goals and the Red Devils were 2-0 up in no time. It seemed the two goals had dealt a sucker punch to the Anfield club, as they never really displayed any fight. There was one ocassion, where Suarez got through, but was halted by a last-ditch tackle by Ferdinand, much to the fury of Suarez.
The South American striker, then scored, 9 minutes from time, to make the score 2-1, and then headed over a golden chance, minutes later, to equalise, but Manchester United held on for the win.
What happened next was completely unsporting from Patrice Evra. In a way of taunting Suarez, he ran past him, arms wide upon, and hopping down the pitch, in front of the Stretford End. He was soon asked to tone down his celebrations by the referee, as Suarez was quickly escorted off the pitch by his Liverpool teammates, with the help of a few stewards.
The post-match interviews added to the fire. Ferguson brandishing Suarez as a ‘disgrace’ to English football, Liverpool in particular, while Kenny Dalglish gave a bizzare interview, where he claimed not having any knowledge of the hand-shake incident. Liverpool, Dalglish and Suarez redeemed themselves to some extent, having issued public apologies, to Manchester United, which were quickly accepted.
So, here area few thoughts on what I think about the incident.
Was Suarez wrong in shaking Evra’s hands?
No. There is no rule, which states that you have to shake an opponent’s hand. There have been various similar incidents in the Premier League. Paul Scholes declined Patrick Vieira’s hand in 2005, after a bust-up in the tunnel between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. Wayne Bridge refused to shake John Terry’s hand after John Terry was proven guilty of having slept with Bridge’s ex-girlfiend. And, more recently, the FA decided to altogether scrap handshaked ahead of the FA Cup clash between Chelsea and Queen’s Park Rangers, following claims of racial abuse by John Terry on Anton Ferdinand, in an earlier league match.
Suarez, to be fair, to him, still feels he is innocent, and was wrongly handed a 8-match ban. Also, was accused of racism, which would be detrimental to his public image, and hence his stance on declining Evra’s hand.
However, the counter argument can be Suarez could have put a lid over the issue by shaking Evra’s hands, and got on with the game.
Debate is open on this.
Was Ferdinand wrong in declining Evra’s hands?
Yes. There was no need for Rio Ferdinand to get involved in this.
Of course, Ferdinand’s own brother was at the receiving end of racial abuse, and Rio himself claims of being racially abused as a kid. And, hence his stance of not shaking the hand of someone, who he perceives to be a ‘racist’.
Then again, debate is open on this.
Is Evra’s celebration justified?
I had lengthy and heated arguments about this with many Manchester United and Liverpool supporters on this issue, in our community in Facebook.
Manchester United fans feel that Evra has every right to celebrate the way he did. It was a high intensity match, and few weeks earlier he had been thoroughly booed at Anfield. So, it was his moment. On whether he should have done it in front of Suarez, they say joy can’t be controlled, and he wanted to celebrate in front of the Stretford End.
Liverpool fans, however, feel hard done by. Evra’s celebration was completely out of order. The game has lost its sportsmanship, according to them. While they defend Suarez not shaking Evra’s hand as a personal decision, they criticise Evra’s decision to overcelebrate.
What I feel, is, No, Evra’s celebration is not justified. Evra probably would have gained respect from all quarters had he not done that, and celebrated in a dignified manner. He tried to taunt the Uruguyan, by rubbing salt into his wounds. Probably, deserves a match-ban. Gary Neville, Martin Keown and Emmanuel Adebayor have all gotten match-bans in the past for their celebrations.
Are Ferguson’s comments justified?
No. To call a proffesional footballer of a rival team, ‘disgraceful’ is completely out of order.
Yes, it may have come in the heat of the moment, and Fergie might have really meant it, but to let it out in the media has left a bad taste.
The burly Scot, himself has managed controversial players during his reign. There was Eric Cantona, who kung-fu kicked a Crystal Palace fan. There was Rio Ferdinand, who missed a drugs test. And, there was Roy Keane, who blatantly ended the career of another footballer, Alfe Inge Haaland, in a mad tackle.
Ferguson, should have declined to comment, instead of escalating tensions.
Is Dalglish’s post-match interview behavior justified.
Dalglish didn’t attend the post-match interview, in a later interview, claimed to have no knowledge about the issue. He said he expected Suarez to shake Evra’s hands, and the incident was completely unexpected.
Yes, Dalglish was hard done by, considering his side lost, but to not appear in the post-match interview leaves a sour taste. And, to give a poor interview later on, leaves a lot to be considered. Hence, No.
To come to a conclusion on such a controversial topic is a hard thing to do. There is always two sides to a coin.
There is one side, that says Suarez is innocent, and never racially abused Evra in the first place. He took the 8 match ban, and after all that he has to deal with criticism on his personal decision not to shake Evra’s hand.
And, the other side, which feels Suarez did abuse Evra racially, which is a completely unacceptable thing to do. And despite the ban, he has not yet learned his lesson, and has the audacity to reject Evra’s handshake.
Here’s what I feel. Guilty or not, Suarez had the best chance to put the incident behind him and move on. He didn’t, for whatever reason he might have had at the moment. Not shaking a opposition player’s hand goes completely against FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign. Evra, on his part, is probably equally a culprit. His over-the-top celebrations were distasteful in the least, so were the comments made by Ferguson and the interview by Dalglish.
What I can say is that hopefully, things have now been sorted out. This will bode good for both the clubs, and it’s supporters. Football should be the winner at the end of the day, and not racism, or Suarez or Evra. Hopefully, after the next Liverpool-Manchester United clash, football will be the talking point.