Liverpool's players have condemned the FA for imposing an eight-game ban on Luis Suarez and rejected the implication that the striker is a racist.
In a statement supported by every member of Kenny Dalglish's first-team squad, they said they were shocked by the FA's verdict and they found the portrayal of the Uruguayan unrecognisable. The statement said: "Luis Suarez is our team-mate and our friend and, as a group of players, we are shocked and angered that he has been found guilty by the FA. We totally support Luis and we want the world to know that.
"We know he is not a racist. We are a squad of many different nationalities and backgrounds. All of us support the club's commitment to fighting racism.
"We have lived, trained and played with Luis for almost 12 months and we don't recognise the way he has been portrayed. We will continue to support Luis through this difficult period and, as a popular and respected friend of all his team-mates, he will not walk alone."
Suarez was supported by his fellow Uruguayan, the Brighton manager, Gus Poyet, but not by Gordon Taylor, the head of the players' union, the Professional Footballers' Association.
Poyet had persistently argued that the Spanish word negrito which is what Suarez is alleged to have called the Manchester United defender, Patrice Evra, at Anfield in October carried no racist overtones in Uruguay.
"The ban is incredible, shocking and disproportionate," said Poyet. "I back Luis to the death. Things have happened before with Evra. He is no saint. He is a controversial player. I don't know what world we are going to live in from now on. People will accuse each other of anything. I have tried to explain that we live with coloured people in Uruguay. We play football with them; we share parties. We are born, we grow up and we die with them. We call them 'blacks' in a natural way and even an affectionate way."
Taylor, however, rejected this argument. He said: "The FA must have had very compelling evidence and it sends out a very strong message to the rest of the world. I understand the point about cultural differences but, if you come to this country, all players have to abide by, not just the laws of the game, but the laws of the land. Referring to someone's skin colour has got to be offensive, it is self-evident."