The fuss about handshakes is all the rage at the moment, after the FA cancelled the pre-match handshake between Chelsea and QPR following rumours that Anton Ferdinand’s teammates would all be willing the snub John Terry’s hand.
Last weekend we had more fuss, with speculation then suggesting that Rio Ferdinand wouldn’t shake Terry’s hand in support of his brother.
Whilst people did get carried away with all of this handshake business, the most interesting of the lot was probably between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, given that these weren’t just rumours or allegations. Evra had heard exactly what Suarez had said to him and reported it immediately. The Liverpool striker had been found guilty of racially abusing our player and served an eight game ban as punishment. This wasn’t just a question of whether Evra would shake his hand as much as should he be expected to.
Before the game, PFA chief executive, Gordon Taylor, had said he hoped that there would be a handshake, so we could start to put all this behind us.
“I would hope that would take place, that would be a sign that having gone through the situation that those two players would shake hands and we can move on,” he said. “If you keep things festering it will only exacerbate how the problem was initially, and in that way we will be losing the battle.”
At this point, it was presumed if anyone refused the handshake, it would be Evra. He was the wronged party here and despite serving his ban, Suarez had never apologised for what he said.
“People are already speculating on the pre-match ceremony,” said Dalglish this week. “But from Luis’ point of view we have spoken to him and I know he will shake the hand of Patrice Evra and the other Manchester United players before the game.”
Dalglish got it wrong though. As we’ve all seen, Suarez opted to snub Evra’s offer to shake his hand and start to put all of this behind them. Why?
Speaking to a radio station in Uruguay earlier in the week, Suarez said: “I knew what I did and there is a kind of football law that says, ‘What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch and that’s the end of the story.’”
Despite agreeing with the club that he would shake his hand, did Suarez refuse because he was angry with Evra for not keeping what was said to him a secret? It is absurd and you can only imagine what was going through his head when he decided to walk past our captain because common sense or rational thinking doesn’t provide any explanation.
“It’s never your fault, it’s never your fault, always the victim, it’s never your fault,” our fans sung on repeat during the game. Throughout this whole situation, Liverpool would have you believe it’s always been down to someone else. Despite not appealing the decision, the club claimed Suarez was innocent, their fans booed Evra and chanted that he was a “lying bastard”, no apology was forthcoming and even in the week leading up to the game, Dalglish claimed Suarez should never have been banned.
Following the final whistle, it is no surprise they continued to try to play the victims, despite being the ones in the wrong at every stage of this situation. Dalglish was interviewed and bizarrely claimed not to have known about the non-handshake and again tried to absolve Suarez of any blame for setting the tone for the game.
“I think you are very severe and are bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today,” he said.
Then Dalglish went on to blame the media, saying: “You know something else, when we had the FA Cup tie, because there wasn’t a 24-hour news channel in the build-up to the game, nothing like this happened.”
After the game, despite us all seeing footage of Suarez refusing to shake Evra’s hand, Liverpool fans started posting pictures of freeze frames which made it look as though Evra had been at fault. There is honestly no limit to how far they will go to paint themselves as though they’ve been hard done by.
One LFC blog, This Is Anfield, claimed to have “proof” that Evra had refused the handshake. “Patrice Evra successfully portrayed himself as the victim today but this video below clearly shows it was he who first refused Luis Suarez‘s handshake. The Man United captain moves his hand away as Suarez approaches during the pre-match handshakes. Suarez therefore avoids Evra, while Evra then reaches out – while looking directly into the Sky camera with a look of shock that an esteemed actor would have been proud of – thus making Suarez look like he refused the handshake.”
You couldn’t make this up. They are a parody of themselves sometimes. It was so obvious what had happened, whether you watched the footage in real time or slow motion, but they are painfully desperate to rid themselves of any blame.
Thankfully, at long last, sections of the media finally criticised Liverpool for their reaction and BBC’s Match of the Day ensured any possible doubt over who refused to shake whose hand was cleared up.
“Outraged by everything and ashamed of nothing, Kenny Dalglish’s response over Luis Suárez sums up the paranoia enveloping Liverpool” wrote Daniel Taylor in The Guardian. “Liverpool – clumsy, arrogant Liverpool – failed by the curled lip of their striker and by a floundering manager buried deep in denial, shoved a great spectacle into the shadows. In its place they revealed their darker side and how ugly it looked. Self-serving, out of touch, paranoid, delusional. Take your pick” wrote Ian Ladyman in The Daily Mail.
After burying their head in the sand for months, releasing ridiculous club statements and giving pathetic press conferences, someone finally stepped in at Liverpool and put a stop to the insanity. There have been suggestions that the club’s American owners reached their limit on how low they would allow their purchase to sink and insisted that apologies were made. Suarez, Dalglish and managing director Ian Ayre all released statements expressing their regret over what happened on Saturday.
“I have spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong,” said Suarez. “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 have written to the editors at This Is Anfield to ask for their response to Suarez’s confession, confirming what had been obvious to everyone outside of Merseyside at the time, that Suarez had ignored Evra’s offer for a handshake. They have yet to reply but I will be sure to include their feelings on Suarez’s apology after they claimed to have “proof” that Evra was the one in the wrong if they do reply.
“We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday’s game,” said Ayre. “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 team-mates 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.”
Dalglish also joined in with the apologies, standing by his earlier claim that he had no idea that Suarez hadn’t shaken hands with Evra, something even some Liverpool fans couldn’t believe.
“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,” he said. “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.”
So, what now? Water under the bridge? Draw a line under it? Forgive and forget? Whilst I have no intention of spending any more time talking about the handshake that never was after today, I don’t particularly enjoy reading any of these clichés about how the matter is now resolved. No apology has been made to Evra for the racial abuse, no apology has been made for implying the FA stitched Liverpool up, no apology has been made for claiming Suarez should never have been banned, no apology has been made for their fans booing Evra’s every touch and chanting at him that he’s a “lying bastard”. Suarez had no right to ignore Evra’s hand and he apologised for doing it. Does he deserve a pat on the back or praise? Well done Suarez, you refused to shake the hand of the man you racially abused and then you were told to apologise, so you did, congratulations!
The way Suarez, Dalglish and Liverpool Football Club have behaved over the past few months is absolutely disgraceful and so I don’t see why the condemnation should wane just because for the first time throughout this saga they haven’t done the wrong thing. They’ve dug the hole so deep that yesterday’s apologies just mean they’re no longer at the water table, but they’re still deep down there in the dirt, having blown the club’s reputation and integrity in defence of a man who has been there a year and who they owe nothing to. Whilst still wrong, staunchly defending club ambassador Steven Gerrard would at least make sense, but why have they allowed themselves to come across so badly for the sake of a player who may very well hand in a transfer request and get himself out of the club as soon as he can? They look as thick as they do morally wrong in all of this.
In contrast, I would like to express my pride in how our club and players have behaved throughout this. The FA asked both clubs to remain silent on the issue before the decision had been made, something which United adhered to and something which Liverpool ignored, with Dalglish repeatedly claiming in the press that if Suarez wasn’t found guilty, Evra should be punished.
Sir Alex Ferguson voiced his outrage at Suarez’s despicable behaviour in a way you couldn’t help but admire. He was furious that Suarez would show such a lack of respect and that was great to see. He isn’t paying lip service to wanting to kick racism out of the game, as Liverpool FC have been doing over the past few months, he was genuinely disgusted with Suarez.
But more than anyone, I am immensely proud of Patrice Evra, who has behaved with such dignity throughout all of this. Not everyone would be man enough to offer Suarez his hand ahead of kick-off on Saturday like Evra did and I admire him for showing that strength. He hasn’t been whinging to the press or playing the victim. He has just gone about his job and kept quiet. At the final whistle, you could see how much it meant to him, that he had repeatedly been disrespected by this man, yet here we were, the winners. It was such a release to him which was visible to all watching. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him celebrate with our fans, who had been cheering his every touch to drown out the boos from the away end. People like Jamie Redknapp, who could barely contain his frustration on Saturday from his pundit’s seat, whilst Gary Neville and Darren Fletcher chuckled, said Evra was out of order for his reaction. I don’t buy that at all. Had he been all over Suarez, like Martin Keown, Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry and Kolo Toure had been to Ruud van Nistelrooy following that penalty miss, that would be one thing, but what did he actually do? Jump up in down in front of the Stretford End whilst Luis Suarez and the other Liverpool players walked towards the tunnel? Big deal. Some people have insisted Evra wasn’t aware of Suarez’s presence and the video footage shows at no point does Evra clock him, but even if he did know exactly where Suarez was, who cares? Why shouldn’t he be allowed to celebrate in front of the Stretford End? Suarez clearly wasn’t bothered by it, so why are Redknapp and co.?
“Manchester United thanks Liverpool for the apologies issued following Saturday’s game,” read our club statement. “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 club.”
Dignified and respectful to the end. Liverpool FC could learn a thing or two from us.
 This Is Anfield has written an article of their own in response to the apology from Suarez and the condemnation from Ayre and Dalglish: Our final word on the Suarez saga.
Some key quotes: Although Luis Suarez must accept some blame in the saga, he should not be the only one being vilified or questioned.”
“Evra does not offer his hand in the same manner as he does to other Liverpool FC players. That Suarez didn’t offer his hand either is not the point. Evra did not offer his hand either. Evra needs to share his proportion of the blame rather than lapping up the victim card with acting befitting of an Oscar winner.” [/edit]
The Daily Mail: Dalglish is reduced to a scowling, sneering bar-room bully
The Guardian: Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish plays dumb to leave his dignity in tatters
The Telegraph: You have to hand it to Luis Suarez, he has a unique ability to unite the world in loathing
The Daily Mail: It’s just too late Kenny, you’ve left a stain on your club