There are two responses to the Patrice Evra-Luis Saurez incident today.
The first response is to over-state it. And the second response is to under-state it.
Earlier today…Manchester United played Liverpool at Old Trafford (Manchester). United won 2-1 but my joy at beating our oldest enemy….oops rival……is tempered by what happenedd before, during and after the game. Precious little had anything to do with Football.
Luis Saurez (Liverpool) was heavily fined and banned for eight games for racially abusing Patrice Evra (Manchester United) in the corresponding fixture at Liverpool in October 2011. Saurez, backed by his club vigourously denied the allegation but the Football Association have found against Saurez…….and the Liverpool club, staff, players and fans have refused to accept the judgement. They believe that their player was treated unfairly……….and that the verbal abuse…..is accepted in Saurez’ native Uruguay.
Football is tribal. We see offsides, handballs, bad tackles in accord with the over-priced replica football shirt we wear. This should have been different. Sadly it is no different.
Part of the pre-match ritual is a handshake among the players. Evra (after all the innocent party) offered his hand to Saurez (the guilty party). And Saurez ignored the outstretched hand. And frankly Saurez seemed rather pleased about doing so.
Seemingly at half time…… away from TV cameras in the relative privacy of the narrow corridor leading to the dressing rooms, there was an angry confrontation between several players from both teams. Police and Stewards had to intervene.
At the end of the match……..which of course United won……it is clear that Patrice Evra was extreme in his celebrations. In a similar match a few years ago Gary Neville (Manchester United) over-celebrated in front of Liverpool fans. This was judged to be provocative. He was fined.
Clearly Evra did not directly provoke Liverpool fans. But clearly as he was in the vicinity of his racist tormentor Luis Saurez, several Liverpool players felt provoked……….it is almost inevitable action will be taken against Patrice Evra. I have sympathy for him. When Saurez ignored Evra’s outstretched hand at the beginning of the game…….in “blanking” Evra…….Saurez made a bad situation worse. He must take the bigger share of the blame. He was stating that Evra did not exist. After the match, it is understandable that Evra respond and let the world know that he does indeed “exist”.
Seemingly there was further ill-feeling in the dressing room area after the match.
There will of course be consequences.
Yet again, Liverpool seem incapable of understanding the dilemna in which they find themselves. Manager (Head Coach) Kenny Dalglish who has already stated that Saurez should not have been banned in the first place……….claims not to have seen the “non handshake” incident. Perhaps that is so. But it beggars belief that in his post-match interviews he claims not to have known about it.
Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s manager states that Saurez is a “disgrace” (few would disagree) and that he should not play for Liverpool again. While Ferguson cites that Saurez is undermining Liverpool’s honourable history, he probably has no right to say who plays for Liverpool.
The Dalglish response is manifestly “tribal”. The Ferguson response runs the risk of being seen as “tribal”.