SO exactly why did Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and his boss Kenny Dalglish apologise a day after the Uruguayan had appeared unrepentant over the storm of outrage they sparked across the football-speaking world?
Why, after an eight-match, unappealed ban for racist abuse, did Suarez suddenly appear contrite after refusing to shake hands with the wronged Patrick Evra during Manchester United's 2-1 win on Saturday?
While United boss Sir Alex Ferguson raged "Suarez could have caused a riot" and insisted "he should never play for Liverpool again”, Dalglish told us on Saturday: “I think you are bang out of order to blame Luis Suárez for whatever happened today.”
But by Sunday, Suarez and Dalglish were grovelling on the official Liverpool FC website. Dalglish, who has just one black face in his current first team squad, even went as far as saying: “I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I'd like to apologise for that.”
According to the Daily Telegraph it was a scathing article from English football writer Rob Hughes for the New York Times which provoked an immediate reaction from Liverpool's owners, the Fenway Sports Group, to act before their club's reputation was seriously damaged by the actions of one ignorant Uruguayan and an old-fashioned Scottish manager.
The NY Times and Fenway have major financial links, the company was formed when they teamed up with Liverpool owner John W Henry to buy the Boston Red Sox in the US. Once they became involved, both Suarez and Dalglish were left with no alternative but to apologise.
Remember, Henry and Fenway chairman Tom Werner had already flown over to Liverpool when the Suarez storm first broke. They held a series of meetings at Anfield and met with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore in an attempt to ease the tensions caused by Suarez, Dalglish and his unrepentant team who wore t-shirts supporting the Uruguayan despite his conviction by the FA.
The three-pronged apology on the official Liverpool website went way beyond the usual level on these issues. There was nothing half-hearted about it.
As the BBC’s ex-Liverpool talkshow host Stan Collymore, himself the subject of huge abuse over the Suarez saga on twitter, tweeted: “Liverpool Football Club have now pulled the rug from under any idiot who looked for Suarez excuse on the handshake. Well done LFC.”
Both Collymore and the Telegraph claim it was after reading the story below that John W Henry made the call that defused the whole situation, prompting Suarez to say: “I have spoken with the Manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realise I got things wrong. I've not only let him down, but also the Club and what it stands for and I'm sorry. I made a mistake and I regret what happened.
"I should have shaken Patrice Evra's hand before the game and I want to apologise for my actions. I would like to put this whole issue behind me and concentrate on playing football."
The suddenly-contrite Dalglish added: "It is right that Luis Suarez has now apologised for what happened at Old Trafford. To be honest, I was shocked to hear that the player had not shaken hands having been told earlier in the week that he would do.
"All of us have a responsibility to represent this club in a fit and proper manner and that applies equally to me as Liverpool manager.
"When I went on TV after yesterday's game I hadn't seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I'd like to apologise for that."
And Liverpool’s managing director Ian Ayres said: “We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday's game. The player had told us beforehand that he would, but then chose not to do so.
"He was wrong to mislead us and wrong not to offer his hand to Patrice Evra. He has not only let himself down, but also Kenny Dalglish, his team-mates and the Club. It has been made absolutely clear to Luis Suarez that his behaviour was not acceptable.
"Luis Suarez has now apologised for his actions which was the right thing to do. However, all of us have a duty to behave in a responsible manner and we hope that he now understands what is expected of anyone representing Liverpool Football Club."
Here’s what Hughes reported: If the Fenway Sports Group is to be the responsible team owner in soccer that it has proved to be in baseball, it needs to get hold of Liverpool, its club in England’s Premier League, and repair its global image fast.
On Saturday, Liverpool lost at Manchester United, 2-1, allowing United to temporarily move into first place in the Premier League. There is no disgrace in such a loss; United, the defending English champion, is vying to keep that title this season, and it very rarely loses at home.
Another ugly incident mars Liverpool's good name, New York Times
But there was disgrace, witnessed by television viewers around the world, in the refusal of Liverpool’s Luis Suárez to shake the hand of United’s Patrice Evra before kickoff.
The hand might not always be offered with sincerity. It might often be less than the noble sign of pregame respect between opponents that Fifa would like to have us believe it is. But in this case it was important to show a global audience that Suárez and Evra were man enough to touch palms and bury the enmity between them.
This was the first time that Suárez had started a game since he was barred for eight matches for repeatedly calling Evra racist names when they competed against each other last October. Suárez claimed that the words he uttered, as used in his Uruguayan hometown, were not racist but could be affectionate. Evra, who is black and French, but understands Spanish well, said he was deeply offended.
Both players are feisty, provocative, volatile characters, as their records for their clubs, and their national teams, have long shown. Evra led the French team that mutinied against its coach and refused to train during the 2010 World Cup. Suárez was the player who made no apology for deliberately handling the ball that led to Ghana’s elimination from that tournament, and he was purchased by Liverpool after he was suspended in the Dutch league for biting an opponent.
It would seem that each of them would wish to show that, for the sake of their team if not their own reputation, they could abide by the rules and rituals of the game that makes their fortune.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson began the week by publicly asking his players to rise above any bitter feelings they had and display sportsmanship on the field. He said he spoke with Evra on Saturday morning.
“Patrice and I had a chat,” Ferguson said, “and he said: ‘I’m going to shake his hand. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. I want to keep my dignity.’ ” When the moment arrived, it was beyond Evra’s grasp.
Suárez shook hands with the referee, and then with the child who was United’s mascot for the day. He then stared at the ground, ignoring the hand extended by Evra and walking toward the next man in line, goalkeeper David de Gea.
Evra grabbed the arm of Suárez, who shrugged him off. De Gea seemed to try to ask Suárez to shake Evra’s hand, and he again refused. The next United player in line, Rio Ferdinand, then withdrew his hand as Suárez passed.
“After seeing what happened, I decided not to shake his hand,” Ferdinand said after the game. “I lost all respect for the guy.”
Ugly repercussions followed. The United crowd booed Suárez, as the Liverpool crowd had booed Evra in its stadium when the teams met in the FA Cup two weeks ago.
In the tunnel as the teams headed to halftime Saturday, the teams scuffled after Evra attempted to say something to Suárez. The police and stewards intervened to separate the players.
The Suárez-Evra feud overshadowed the top-class soccer these teams are capable of. United quickly took a 2-0 lead on two goals by the Liverpool-born Wayne Rooney.
The first was from a corner by Ryan Giggs, when Rooney’s sharp anticipation and reflexes led to a short-range volley in a poorly defended penalty area. The second started when Antonio Valencia preyed on an error from Jay Spearing and with split-second vision teed up Rooney, who put a shot between the legs of goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
A late consolation goal by Liverpool, with Suárez reacting like lightning to Ferdinand’s failure to control a deflection, highlighted Suárez’s immense talent. It is that talent that everyone should be talking about, and not racism, especially in a game in which 11 nationalities were represented.
Long after the lights were switched off at Old Trafford, Suárez wrote on Twitter that he was “sad” because of the loss and “disappointed because everything is not that it seems.”
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish claimed he did not see Suárez refuse the handshake, or the shoving in the tunnel at halftime. He had said earlier in the week that Suárez should not have been barred for what he said about Evra, but that he had spoken to Suárez and he knew that Suárez would shake the hand of Evra.
When he was asked on Sky TV after the game why Suárez had not, Dalglish avoided directly answering the question.
“I think you are bang out of order to blame Luis Suárez for whatever happened today,” Dalglish said.
Shortly before that, Evra was whooping to all corners of the stadium. The referee, Phil Dowd, who had managed the game commendably, at that point physically restrained Evra and asked him not to further inflame the players or the supporters.
Ferguson was less charitable. “He is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club,” he said of Suárez. “That certain player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again.”
It is time for John Henry and Tom Werner, leaders of the Fenway Group that controls Liverpool, to state clearly the direction the team will take on this issue."