Evra and Suarez: Eight years on
Just over eight-and-a-half years on, Patrice Evra has revisited the controversial incident with Luis Suarez that occurred in an away game with Liverpool at Anfield in October, 2011.
The Manchester United favourite insists he will never call Suarez a racist person and he has forgiven him. Indeed, he reveals he spoke with the now-Barcelona attacker in the tunnel before the 2015 Champions League final with Juventus.
However, the Frenchman explains in an extraordinary episode of UTD Podcast that it was difficult for him to show restraint during the clash in the 1-1 draw on Merseyside, which ultimately resulted in an eight-game suspension for the Uruguayan striker.
“I think people didn’t know what had happened behind the scenes,”he told UTD Podcast, which is released later today (Monday).
“It was during the game against Liverpool - we were playing very well and I was marking him during the corner-kick. In Spanish, he said: ‘Don’t touch me, I don’t speak with negro’. In English, it’s: ‘I don’t speak with the n-word’. He maybe didn’t know I spoke Spanish and I asked him what he said and he was like: ‘Yeah, you’re right, I don’t speak with… the n-word’.“The referee [Andre Marriner] came over and asked what was happening with us two. He’d seen my eyes change and he asked if I was okay. I told him he racially abused me and he said: ‘Okay, we’ll talk after the game. Keep playing and don’t do anything silly’.“I remember, during that game, I was talking to myself saying: ‘If you punch him now, people will see you as the bad one. People will forget about what he said’. I was talking to myself: ‘Don’t do… do it…’ I wasn’t focused for the game.“After the game, Sir Alex saw me fuming and he asked what had happened. David De Gea told him that Suarez had made a racist comment, he’d heard it. Straight away, we went to see the referee and I told him what had happened. I told him what had happened and the next day, boom… Patrice Evra in the papers. I didn’t know it was going to the papers. I thought it was just to the referee.
”After it was in the papers, and Manchester United received so many threatening letters about me. People said: ‘We’re in jail, we’re Liverpool fans. When we get out, we’re going to kill you and your family’. For two months, I had security everywhere I went. They were sleeping in front of my house. Everywhere I went, the security followed me. It was a tough time, but I wasn’t scared. My family were scared: my wife and brother, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why people hated me so much. They didn’t know the truth.”Suarez was charged by the Football Association and, in the December, found guilty and handed an eight-game ban, in addition to a £40,000 fine. However, it was not the end of the matter as Liverpool reacted furiously to the decision.
”When we went to the hearing with Luis Suarez and he started lying and saying when he says ‘negro’, he means ‘friend’,” recalled Evra.
“I said: ‘That is not my name. My mum gave me a name, not a colour’. I know that, in South America, when some fans see a black player they will call him ‘negro’ and sometimes it’s nice, sometimes not nice. Anyway, my name is not ‘black’, it’s Patrice.
“So we argued, but Sky have some good footage where you can see him actually say it. In the end, he admitted it and he was banned for eight games, and he had a massive fine. I remember after that, Liverpool played a game and they all wore the T-shirts saying ‘support Suarez’. He had been banned for racist abuse, had been fined and they support him that way. I was confused and upset.
“But, when I did the punditry on Sky and Jamie Carragher apologised after eight years, I was so surprised. He said they made a big mistake that day and he apologised. It really touched me and now I will respect Liverpool as a football club because, when this happened, I was really disappointed with the club. I received an email from the chairman of Liverpool apologising for what happened nine years ago. He said I was welcome to come to Liverpool if I need anything.
“It really touched me because it’s better late than never. But I was surprised that Liverpool supported that kind of attitude. When you have those kind of problems, people around you just think you are crying. Even when I said: ‘You will see the report’, people thought I was still talking about it. I wasn’t still talking about it - I even named Suarez Player of the Year that year. I could evaluate Suarez on the pitch and know the person he was. It was a tough, tough, tough time.”
“That’s exactly what I feel, to be pointed out when I was abused,”he explained.
“I can do my job - I could have punched him on the pitch, but what would I have got? Maybe banned for two years? In front of all the kids and all the people watching the game.
“That’s when I go to the court. I didn’t say: ‘I’m proud to be black, we need to punish him’. No, I said: ‘I don’t know Suarez close enough to know if he’s a racist or not.’ The only thing he did, maybe to disturb my game because I was playing well, he used some racist abuse. That’s it.
“I will never call Suarez a racist person, because I don’t know him personally. Even when we played in the Champions League final, when I was playing for Juventus, I shook his hand in the corridor and spoke to him. I forgive really fast, but I just don’t understand when someone is being the victim, why the media or even the people around say, ‘Stop crying.’ I don’t cry. I don’t need to cry'.“