Suarez apologizes for snubbing Evra handshake
Updated: February 12, 2012, 11:35
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LONDON(AP) Luis Suarez apologized Sunday for snubbing Patrice Evra in a pre-match handshake as Liverpool publicly condemned the striker for the first time in a long-running racism row that has tarnished the name of one of England's biggest clubs.
The Uruguay international was widely criticized for failing to shake Evra's hand before Saturday's Premier League game at Old Trafford in the players' first meeting since Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing the United defender in October.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who passionately defended Suarez in a post-match television interview, and the club's American owners also found themselves under fire from critics who claimed the incident had reignited the racism storm that has blighted the English game this season.
However, Suarez, whose career has been littered with controversies, acknowledged he "made a mistake and I regret what happened.''
"I have spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and I realize I got things wrong,'' Suarez said in a statement released on Liverpool's official website.
"I've not only let him down, but also the club and what it stands for and I'm sorry.''
Dalglish also apologized Sunday for his confrontational manner during that interview, in which he said critics were "bang out of order'' for heaping blame on Suarez for subsequent events in an ill-tempered game between England's two most successful clubs.
Players from both teams reportedly clashed outside the dressing room at halftime - requiring police intervention - while an emotional Evra whipped up the home fans with exuberant post-match celebrations, in front of Suarez.
Dalglish and Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre both said Suarez had misled everyone at the club.
"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.
"But as Ian said earlier, 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.''
In a separate statement, Ayre also condemned Suarez's actions.
"We are extremely disappointed Luis Suarez did not shake hands with Patrice Evra before yesterday's game,'' Ayre said. "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 teammates and the club. It has been made absolutely clear to Luis Suarez that his behavior was not acceptable.''
United accepted the apologies of Suarez and Dalglish, saying in a statement: "Everyone at Old Trafford wants to move on from this. The history of our two great clubs is one of success and rivalry unparalleled in British football.
"That should be the focus in the future of all those who love the clubs.''
The image of Liverpool - one of the storied clubs in the English game - has been damaged in a saga that began on Oct. 15 when Suarez repeatedly racially abused Evra during a league match at Anfield.
Liverpool, owned by the parent company of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox, was condemned by anti-racism groups for resolutely backing Suarez, and also allowing players and Dalglish to wear T-shirts featuring Suarez's picture in a show of solidarity ahead of a match against Wigan weeks later.
Dalglish later moved to rubbish claims the club wasn't interested in fighting racism but its reputation has nevertheless been damaged by the episode.
Speaking before Suarez apologized, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, urged Fenway Sports Group to discipline the striker.
"It is a matter for the owners. This has to be dealt with at the highest level to resolve this festering mess,'' said Taylor, who branded Suarez's conduct as "disrespectful, inappropriate and embarrassing.''
United manager Alex Ferguson reacted angrily to Suarez's handshake snub, saying the player was a "disgrace,'' had disrespected Liverpool's name and should never play again for a club that has won the English title 18 times.
The British media picked up on those comments, with The Sunday Telegraph going with the headline "Day of Disgrace'' and the back-page headline of The Mail on Sunday reading, "Kick Him Out!''
"This was a chance to signal to thousands of fans in the ground that the two men had settled things in a sensible manner. This stupid snub has exacerbated things,'' PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle said.
The incident, played out in front of a huge global TV audience, has even prompted the British government to get involved, with Prime Minister David Cameron planning a summit on the issue this month.
Jeremy Hunt, Britain's culture secretary, said the government needed to be "on our mettle at making sure the football authorities and the government continue to do everything we can to stamp out this problem'' of racism in football.
English football has been left reeling by a number of high-profile incidents of racism this season, with Chelsea defender John Terry recently losing the England captaincy after being charged by police with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a league match against Queens Park Rangers on Oct. 23.
Terry will appear in court in July, eight days after the final of the European Championships.
On Saturday, Greater Manchester Police said they had confiscated 7,500 copies of United's "Red Issue'' fanzine which featured a cutout Ku Klux Klan-style mask bearing the words, "LFC Suarez is innocent.''