Ahead of an emotionally charged soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester United, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez refused to shake the hands of Patrice Evra, the black man that Suarez was convicted of racially abusing last fall.
Suarez, a Uruguayan native, served an eight-game suspension for that prior incident. Now, he has sparked a whole new controversy that may also have racialist undertones.
During the customary pre-game handshake ceremonies, Suarez ignored Evra’s outstretched hands and chose instead to greet United goalkeeper David de Gea, at Old Trafford in Manchester.
In response, United’s center Rio Ferdinand (a black man of Caribbean descent) refused to offer his hand to Suarez as he passed by.
This was the first time the two clubs played each other since Suarez’ suspension.
Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson blasted Suarez’s behavior.
Suarez is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club, he said. He should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. He could have caused a riot.
An irate Ferguson added: I couldn't believe Suarez refused Evra's handshake. You saw the referee [Phil Dowd]. He didn't know what to do. It was a terrible start to the game and it created a terrible atmosphere.”
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was more circumspect about his wayward player.
I think you're [media, fans] bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today, he said.
Manchester United won the match 2-1 over Liverpool.
Aside from the handshake snafu, players from both sides clashed in the tunnel during half-time. There was also anger on Liverpool’s side from Evra’s ebullient post-game celebrations.
After the game, Suarez cryptically wrote on his Twitter account: We lost and we are sad because we have made a big effort... Disappointed because everything is not that it seems...
Even after the victory, Ferguson could not let go of his anger at Suarez. Racism is an important issue and football has come a long way since the days of bananas being thrown at [black player] John Barnes,
Ferdinand added: After seeing what happened, I decided not to shake [Suarez] hand ... I lost all respect for the guy. It could have been resolved between the two players today. After this, it's not great.
Another of Evra's teammates, Darren Fletcher, who is white, said: Credit to Patrice Evra, I think he's come out (and) he's the bigger man.