Last season, English football had a couple of high-profile incidents revolving around allegations of racism. One of those involved Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, wherein Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Evra by allegedly calling him “Negrito” during a match last fall and banned for eight subsequent games as a result. Feeling aggrieved after having steadfastly asserted his innocence, Suarez inflamed the situation by purposely avoiding Evra’s hand during the pre-match team handshake before the return match in the spring. When United won that game, Evra returned the favor by going out of his way to follow Suarez as he trudged off the field and celebrating jubilantly in a circle around him.
And so, many column inches were filled throughout the spring and summer with hashings and rehashings and rehashings of the rehashings and the shallow sort of introspection that accompanies such things as commentators and bloggers stroked their chins over The Significance Of It All. And with the release of the Hillsborough Independent Report last week preceding today’s match between the two teams, much was made of the need to put such personal vendettas aside in such a highly emotional environment. I imagine both Suarez and Evra were threatened by team and league officials with everything short of death or dismemberment should they do anything to keep the controversy alive.
So, they shook hands without incident before the game, which was being broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel, home to the most insufferably tiresome studio team I know. Would they be as eager to relinquish the goose that laid the golden gossip?
Suarez and Evra go through with the handshake…not a whole lot of eye contact on that handshake…but a handshake nonetheless.
I let the DVR get far enough ahead so that I could skip the halftime show. I couldn’t bear seeing if they had a body-language expert standing by for further analysis.