London: Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish insisted on Monday that it is “utterly rubbish” to suggest that defending Luis Suarez against racism accusations showed the club is not interested in fighting racism.
The Uruguayan forward is serving an eight-game suspension for repeatedly racially abusing Patrice Evra during a match and has been criticized for failing to apologize to the Manchester United defender.
Liverpool, owned by the parent company of the Boston Red Sox, was condemned by anti-racism groups for resolutely backing Suarez and allowing players and Dalglish to wear T-shirts featuring Suarez’s picture in a show of solidarity ahead of a match.
After facing weeks of criticism, Dalglish has issued a statement on the club website to say that the Reds “don’t want racism anywhere near football.”
“Over the past few weeks there has been a perception that the football club isn’t doing what it should be doing, but I don’t think the football club would ever go down that road,” Dalglish said.
“We will always support the official campaigns related to racism. Obviously there was a big issue with Luis.”
“The players showed support for Luis which was fantastic, but then some people interpreted that wrongly as the players saying they’re not interested in the fight against racism. That is totally and utterly rubbish.”
Liverpool’s attempts to move on from the Suarez case have been hampered by another racism investigation involving the club.
Oldham defender Tom Adeyemi was reduced to tears by insults from Liverpool fans during Friday’s 5-1 loss at Anfield in the FA Cup and had to be comforted by teammates and opposing players.
Police have arrested a 20-year-old man from the Liverpool area on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offense. He was released on police bail on Sunday pending further inquiries.
“The person who shouted whatever he shouted at Tom that upset him, if we can help the police find out who it is and he gets charged, then whatever we can do to make the punishment as severe as it could be will be done,” Dalglish said.
A year after returning to the manager’s job after 20 years, Dalglish insisted that Liverpool would not be one of the world’s most popular clubs if it had failed to help combat racism.
“I can guarantee to the supporters out there that there is no way I would have come back to this football club if I thought it was in any way, shape or form racist or discriminatory,” the 60-year-old Scot said. “I wouldn’t be here.”
Preparations have already begun at Liverpool for the first visit of United since Suarez’s confrontation with Evra in October during a Premier League match. The northwest rivals were drawn together on Sunday to meet in the fourth round of the FA Cup on the weekend of Jan. 28 and 29.
“There were definitely a few raised eyebrows from everyone after that draw,” Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said Monday. “With all that’s gone on, people will talk about it and talk about it but I think the most important thing for us is to make sure that we make it a great day and a great game.”
“We need to make sure that we all work together to make sure that everybody concentrates on the excitement of the football and the FA Cup and not on anything else.”