paddy-madden
6th February 2012

FA Cup tie offers end to Race row.

Paddy Madden takes a look at this season’s most controversial issue so far…
FA Cup tie offers end to Race row.

It was hard not to laugh when the draw for the FA Cup fourth round was made. Liverpool were to play Manchester United at Anfield.
At the very best of times, this is a fixture laced with more bile and venom than any other in the country. The last time a United team travelled down the East Lancs road for an FA Cup tie, the ambulance carrying an injured Alan Smith was rocked in the streets, excrement was flung at the visiting supporters and missiles were launched at Steven Gerrard.
The rivalry and contempt both sets of supporters hold for each other is such that even at last week’s fixture at home to Stoke, ex-Liverpool players Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch were serenaded by United fans with songs about Heysel – whilst at their end of season parties Liverpool’s chief supporters group, Spirit of Shankly, have been known to have a man on stage with a guitar singing about the Munich Air disaster.
This use of disaster to score points is nothing new, but it leaves a sour taste. In the increasingly sanitised world of modern football great rivalries are needed more than ever – and Liverpool United is one of the greatest. Born during the industrial revolution, as battles over cotton and tax led to the building of the Manchester Ship Canal, the clubs are the most successful and best supported in the country – and this has led to, as Stuart Maconie puts it, ‘a vendetta that’s Sicilian in intensity’.
Recently an extra dash of poison has been added to the contest – courtesy of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra’s clash at Anfield in October -and the proverbial shit-storm which followed.
Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Evra by the FA and subsequently banned for eight games.
This merely made him a martyr on Merseyside, as ‘Justice for Suarez’ became the Kop’s latest campaign. Uruguayan flags were waved in unison and the Liverpool squad – joined by manager Kenny Dalglish – made the perhaps ill-advised move of warming up in Suarez t-shirts before their match against Wigan. Guilty or not, it’s difficult to see how their supporters and players could so openly back a man facing the charge of racial abuse.
The whole, sorry affair poured fuel on the fire of hatred. It was thus written in the stars that the two sides would meet in January’s cup game.
Frothing with feelings of injustice, Liverpool fans promised Evra the reception from hell. United supporters teased on internet forums about the prospect of turning up to ‘Klanfield’ with pillow cases on their heads.
The game ultimately passed by without major incident. Evra was soundly booed on his every touch -but before there could be any debate over the morals of booing the victim of racial abuse, The Kop made it loud and clear that they aren’t racist – ‘they only hate mancs’.
It was Evra –predictably -who made the game-changing error, leaving himself out of position and gifting Dirk Kuyt the chance to seal a 2-1 win for Liverpool and a place in the 5th round.
For now, in the aftermath of the storm, tempers have cooled.
Yet this coming Sunday, when Liverpool are welcomed to Old Trafford, it

Paddy Madden

Paddy Madden

Former sports editor (2011-2012).

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