With the profound apologies issued on Sunday, a can of worms that has been opened at every last opportunity must now be buried away. The FA cup third round match at Anfield was an example of said can of worms being opened. Throughout the duration of the match, Patrice Evra was booed by sections – and I stress just sections – of the Liverpool fan-ship. But why? Because he simply reported being racially abused? If so, the justification of the jeers was wrong in an endless amount of ways. For, in hindsight, the booing helped not one bit, and nothing was solved. For now that we look back on that match and this whole season, we can see issues of racism in football are still prevalent. And nothing, including boos at Anfield or this Suarez/Evra ordeal, must jeapordise the overall ethos: the elimination of those issues.
Kenny Dalglish’s comments midweek of ‘Suarez never should have been away’ only served to drag up the issue further and prevent the right conclusion to fall into place. Dalglish clearly outlined his views on the ordeal beforehand. Again looking back, what purpose could this reopening of the sorry saga possibly have? Once more the issue was dragged further through the gutter – and on Saturday it was dragged hardest of all. From his comments we must learn. For the good of both clubs, it’s players, and our football society in general, the spat ends.
The apologies made on Sunday were clear in their purpose – a resolution must be favoured over tribalism and the inciting of hatred. Rivalry is one thing but fully blown war and entering murky waters of racism is pernicious and harmful.
To Evra’s credit, he held out his hand – and whatever you think of how silly a pre-match handshake is, it was a symbolic offering of a patch-up. Now, it’s not as if the handshake is going to elminate what has happened between the two men – they will still hate each other. But it was the start of moving on. The start of putting it to bed. Everyone should understand that, no matter how you feel, Suarez’ refusal served no purpose apart from to inflame the situation further. Whether he was right or wrong to do it, the whole scene was a debacle that should not be repeated. And now we move on. One cannot change the past, but we can plan for a brighter future. For what will become of the ordeal if it continues in Saturday’s vain? A violent fan ruck or even more insults traded, or an ongoing, venomous presence of the ordeal surfacing every time these two clubs meet? Thankfully Suarez apologised. While we love drama in football, we detest drama based on such a dark, vile incident as racial abuse. The two involved clubs are too upstanding to be dragged down by this anymore.
Liverpool fans must not support Suarez and United fans not support Evra – we must look at the bigger picture and what we must support is an end to this grotesque ordeal, the spats and the insults. You see tribalism and support for your own can be a grand value to hold, but not when it jeapordises – and actually perpetuates – the solving of such a grandiose problem. We must not approach the past incident with masted colours, but with sensibility and common sense not corroded by which club we support. And we must do the same for the future. It has proven harmful for both clubs, especially Liverpool. There were few winners on Saturday, it attracted all the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Gary Neville spoke of an extra helping of ‘passion’ being injected into the game – and I do love passionate fights and whatnot – but the racial shadow looming over the fixtures was a dark one indeed. There wasn’t much dignity on display in Suarez’ handshake refusal, the tunnel fights over an incident rooted by racial abuse, and Evra’s consequent celebrations. We must fight together – unburdened by club colours – to make sure we never see such a day, a day that could have been much worse, again. The calm after the storm is needed for both football and the respective clubs.
They are rivals – but shouldn’t be rivals on something this serious. Otherwise what do we have? Just horrible, poison and hatred having a detrimental effect on fans, players, the images of the two clubs and the quelling of racism in England. They should now be friends during this feud. Friends that both want and need peace.
Not least for Liverpool. For all their rich, textured history, for all the achievements of their manager Kenny Dalglish, it was becoming increasingly difficult to hold respect for Liverpool. Their reputation was scathed by prolonging the ordeal. When looking at the wonderful Liverpool institution, and all that they stand for, it must never reach the same levels of disdain again. Football is, after all, a game. And such hatred stemming from such serious, hate-filled spats is not in tune with the passionate – but ultimately enjoyable – game we should love. You see we can even look back on this ordeal as something good – that incidents can never reach the same level of vulgarity ever, ever again. Mistakes made, lessons learnt. That is the mantra to be taken – not memories of hate or racism, or trying to get one over on each other.
As an accepting football nation, we needed for all parties a cordial conclusion that wipes the slate clean and is unequivocal in its purpose that such displays, like the one depicted on Saturday, must never rear their head again. Let us hope the apologies on Sunday have given us that. These two clubs are too full of grandeur and we as a nation should despise any surfacing clog getting it’s day in the stopping of this unbecoming feud. It must all end. And if there are any fans, a club, an institution or anyone else who thinks otherwise, we must work together as fans of football – not as fans of individual clubs – to make them wake up. If they cannot wake up, then we must put them forcefully to sleep. For nothing can stop this long-lasting, insidious feud from being put to bed once and for all.