A great rivalry that turned into a racist rant
Shocking revelations describe in damning detail an exchange between old foes that will go down in the game's annals of infamy
It started as the sort of physical clash and verbal reaction which take place in most matches on every Saturday of the season, but is already enshrined as a cause célèbre, not least because so much of the detail has now been made public.
Nor are the repercussions over. Liverpool will study the judgment of almost 30,000 words that was finally published last night before making any comment but their case has hardly been helped by the conclusions.
Indeed, the gesture of support that was intended by wearing T-shirts with Suarez's name and number on now look more ill-advised than ever.
The club had previously complained about the length of time the regulatory commission was taking, but so delicate was the issue – a similar accusation against the England captain John Terry, which he denies, having come to trial in a magistrates' court – that their extreme caution was understandable.
Examination of the case, it now transpires, involved studying the videotape in minute detail and taking evidence from experts familiar with the nuances of the Spanish language in which the relevant conversation took place.
In the 57th minute of Liverpool's home game against Manchester United, Luis Suarez fouled Patrice Evra down by the corner flag at the Kop end of the ground, kicking him on a knee that had caused him problems in the past.
Evra lay on the ground awaiting treatment, as Dirk Kuyt came over and told him in robust terms to get up. It appeared to be no more than a routine foul at a tense stage of a game that is now established as the greatest rivalry in English football, but the next time the players came together a few minutes later will go down in the more infamous annals of football history.
In the 63rd minute, Suarez won a corner for Liverpool with a shot that was deflected. Suarez retrieved the ball from behind the goal, kicked it across to Steven Gerrard to allow him to take the corner and then started to move past the near post along the goalline.
It was Evra's job to look out for Suarez at corners, even though he was not generally marking him. This was the first time they had come together since Suarez's foul on Evra five minutes previously.
Evra faced up to Suarez and kept walking towards him, forcing him to move backwards along the goalline and slightly behind it. All the way they were talking to each other.
Then Kuyt stepped between them. He faced up to Evra and prodded him in the chest with his finger. Evra pushed Kuyt away in the chest with both hands. At this point Suarez started a run out of the six-yard box towards the near post, and Evra ran with him.
The corner was taken but by the time Suarez had flicked the ball on with his head into the goalmouth area, the referee had blown his whistle to stop play.
Evra and Suarez are agreed that they spoke to each other in Spanish. Evra asked Suarez why he had kicked him, to which the forward replied: "Because you are black."
When Evra challenged him to repeat the answer and said he would "punch him", Suarez said: "I don't speak to blacks."
Evra then told Suarez he was going to hit him, to which the Uruguay international replied in Spanish: "Dale, negro, negro, negro." That translates to "OK, blackie, blackie, blackie".
Evra also said in his evidence to the commission that Suarez went to touch him and was gesturing at his skin. The report said it looked as if Suarez pinched Evra, which Suarez admitted in his original witness statement to "defuse the situation".
In the dressing-room after the 1-1 draw, United team-mates found that Evra was still furious. Javier Hernandez, Nani and Antonio Valencia all told the commission that, speaking in the mixture of Spanish and Portugese commonly used among them, Evra complained of having been racially abused.
Next the French defender made the same point to United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who took him to the referee's room, where the fourth official Phil Dowd took notes. Ferguson said he wanted to make a formal complaint on the basis of what Evra had told him.
When Liverpool officials learned what was going on, Damien Comolli spoke in Spanish to Suarez, who told him that nothing had happened which could be classified as racist abuse, although he admitted having used the word "negro".
Dalglish spoke to the referee and said "hasn't he done this before?", which was understood to be a reference to Evra complaining about an alleged racist comment made by a groundsman after a game at Chelsea. That evening the referee filled out his report including a reference to an "unsavoury event".
Neither manager made any reference to the incident in the post-match media briefings and it only came to light late that evening when Evra gave an interview to the French television station Canal+, as he frequently does. This time the content would prove explosive.
Notes on a scandal
The commission said he was a credible witness. He gave his evidence in a calm, composed and clear way. It was for the most part consistent. The confrontation, when Liverpool were preparing to take a corner, began with Evra asking Suarez why he had kicked him on the knee in a tackle.
His evidence was unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance. It was, in part, inconsistent with the contemporaneous evidence, especially the video footage. He said he pinched Mr Evra's skin in an attempt to defuse the situation. He also said his use of the word negro to address Evra was conciliatory and friendly. The commission rejected that evidence, saying: "To describe his evidence in that way was unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument. That this was put forward by Suarez was surprising and seriously undermined the reliability of his evidence on other matters." The commission also said that Suarez's words, which included a reference to Evra's colour, were insulting. "The use of insulting words which include a reference to another person's colour on a football pitch are wholly unacceptable."
Suarez said it is a word often used in Uruguay as a friendly form of address to people who are black or brown-skinned. Language experts said that context was crucial and that, in an argument such as he had with Evra, it would have been seen in Uruguay and other South American countries as offensive. The Commission noted that, in the course of the confrontation, Suarez had used "the words negro or negros seven times. He did so both before and after the referee had spoken [to the two players] and told them to calm down. Suarez addressed Evra as negro. He also made other derogatory comments using the word".
Suarez ought to have known the word was unacceptable, particularly in view of the FA's campaign to eliminate all forms of racism from the game, and he said he would not use the word on a football pitch again. Evra accepted that Suarez is not racist.
When told Evra's version of what had happened and that it would be put into the referee's report, Liverpool's manager said: "Hasn't he done this before?", causing Phil Dowd, the fourth official, to stop and think whether Evra had previously been involved in such allegations. Dalglish's comment is believed to have been a reference to the unproven allegation of racism made against the Chelsea groundsman, Sam Bethell, although it was United's assistant manager Mike Phelan and the goalkeeping coach Richard Hartis who claimed to have heard the word "immigrant" used at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool's director of football, who speaks Spanish, said in his evidence that he felt something had been lost in translation of the word negro in the way that Evra had interpreted the remark.
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