Jamie Carragher has admitted Liverpool were wrong to wear T-shirts in support of Luis Suarez following the striker’s racism row with Patrice Evra in 2011.
The Liverpool team, then managed by Sir Kenny Dalglish, showed their support for Suarez by donning the T-shirts in the warm-up for their match at Wigan in December of that year, after the Uruguayan was ruled to have racially abused Evra during a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Anfield the previous October.
Suarez denied the allegations at the time but after a six-day hearing, he was handed an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine by the Football Association on December 20.
A day later, Liverpool traveled to face Wigan in the Premier League at the DW Stadium, and Carragher has revealed he did not feel comfortable about the arrangement to wear T-shirts in the warm-up in support of his team-mate, but admits he lacked the “courage” to stand up for what was right.
Here is how the conversation between Carragher and Evra played out on Monday Night Football…
Jamie Carragher: “Patrice, on the Luis Suarez incident, do you actually feel that he should not have been banned, that it should have been more about education? You would not have wanted to see the ban, you would have wanted to see a different punishment in some way?”
Patrice Evra: “Exactly. I remember when it happened, this incident, I never went to the court and said ‘Luis Suarez is a racist’ because he used some racist words.
“It’s difficult even that, because I said to the court: ‘I don’t want you to ban Luis Suarez, but I just don’t want you to say that because I didn’t react [it was nothing]’. Imagine if I punched him, in all the TV and all the kids would see me punching Luis Suarez, and I would have looked like the villain.
“Even if you fine someone, he won’t care. It’s about the education. Send him to Africa, helping the kids… We are all the same… I am just a human being.”
Jamie Carragher: “When this was happening, I was the PFA rep for Liverpool, and Gordon Taylor was the head of the union. He was actually trying to get you and Luis Suarez together, through me. Was that a message that was coming through to you at Manchester United? Would you have been prepared to meet up after that?”
Patrice Evra: “Definitely. I was so disappointed after the ban, when the team and Kenny Dalglish came out [with the T-shirts] in support of Luis Suarez. There were even some people calling me a liar. But you can see on the TV, he used those words. I will say again, I can’t call Luis Suarez a racist, he just used some racist words that day.”
The Liverpool players wore T-shirts in support of Suarez during the warm-up before their game against Wigan, televised live on Sky Sports…
Patrice Evra: “I saw it. I was watching the game. I was like, this is ridiculous. It is unbelievable. Even for the club, you put your own club in danger when you do those things. I understand you always have to support your player because this is your team. But this was after the ban. If it was before the ban and you are waiting for the sanctions, but he got the ban. So what message are you sending out to the world when you do that? Supporting someone who has been banned for using racist words?”
Jamie Carragher: “There is no doubt that we made a massive mistake. That was obvious. It was an evening game and because it was Wigan, we traveled there on the day of the game. We got there, had our lunch and then we had a team meeting. I just remember in the team meeting, I don’t know whether it was the manager or Steve Clarke asking one of the players: ‘Are you still wearing the shirts?’ That was the first I had heard of it.
“I am not lying on that and saying ‘I wasn’t a part of it’ because as a club, we got it wrong and we were all part of it. I was vice-captain. But that was the first I had heard of it that afternoon. So I am not sure who was actually behind it. I know you mention the manager, but I don’t think Kenny had anything to do with it, to be honest, it was the players who Luis was close to in the dressing room who really wanted to support their mate and their friend.
“What I would say is that maybe I, as an individual, lacked the courage to say I wasn’t wearing it. Because once the squad has decided… I have to look at myself. I didn’t have enough courage. Maybe there were others. I don’t think everybody within Liverpool thought that we were doing what was right. But as a family, as a football club, your first reaction – no matter what someone does – is to support them even if they are wrong. And that is wrong. I am not condoning it, but that is the first reaction. Apologies. We got it massively wrong.”
Patrice Evra: “Actually, I understand. The first reaction of your club and your team-mate is to support you. If I made a massive mistake and I see my team-mates or the club doesn’t support me, I would feel they were letting me down. So I understand and I don’t understand. It is 50-50.”
When Liverpool subsequently traveled to face Manchester United at Old Trafford, Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand in the pre-match ritual…
Patrice Evra: “It was unbelievable all week. The people. Even my mum wanted to know whether I would shake his hand. It was like the handshake was more important than Manchester United versus Liverpool, a massive game. So that’s why I was frustrated because I wanted people to focus on the game.
“My mum asked me what I was going to do. I told her that I am the sort of person who would forgive so I would shake his hand no matter what. He made a mistake. I won’t go on holiday with him, but I will shake his hand.
“When I went to shake his hand and I saw he didn’t, I was like, ‘what’s wrong with that guy?’ He made himself worse. He made himself worse. And I am feeling sad for him.”