The mother of murdered black teenager Anthony Walker tells Channel 4 News that Liverpool Football Club have admitted they ‘made mistakes’ during the Luis Suarez racism row.
Gee Walker, who is now a race adviser after her 18-year-old son, Anthony, was murdered in a racist attack at a Liverpool bus stop, broke her silence to say that the football club told her they “got it wrong” on Suarez.
Their apparent comments are in marked contrast to the public stance taken over the Suarez affair by the club, which has come under fire for consistently defending the 24-year-old. Public shows of support included sporting T-shirts backing Suarez days after the Football Association banned him for eight matches and fined him £40,000 for racially abusing Manchester United defender, Patrice Evra.
But in private, Ms Walker said, Liverpool FC management have admitted that “mistakes were made” and they were prepared to learn their lesson from the matter.
“We all make mistakes,” Ms Walker told Channel 4 News. “It’s what we do now. We wait to see if Liverpool’s promises are words or if there will be actions.”
She added that the club told her they were “willing to use (Suarez) as a springboard” to address potential issues surrounding racism, and that she is hopeful they will follow through on positive statements from the club, and their manager, Kenny Dalglish. Ms Walker also defended the club, saying they had done too much good work with the black community for the Suarez incident to spoil their reputation.
Liverpool FC declined to comment on what they say was a private conversation, but Channel 4 News understands Ms Walker’s comments to be an accurate representation.
Ms Walker’s comments were made as former England player John Barnes, who became the country’s most high-profile black player when he signed for Liverpool in the late 1980s, sought to draw a line under the affair.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup match between Liverpool and Manchester United, Mr Barnes, who has previously spoken of racist abuse hurled at him, told Channel 4 News: “Even if Suarez is 100 per cent guilty, and Suarez scores 50 goals this season and they win the league and they win the cup, that’s showbusiness, so ultimately that is all that matters.”
But the matter has divided opinion since it erupted in October, with many arguing that Liverpool’s consistent defence of Suarez has only ensured that the row drags on even longer.
Youth worker and Liverpool FC scout, Earl Jenkins, said: “There’s a bit of a grey area now,” he told Channel 4 News. “People have read into the support of Luis Suarez as the support of racism. So from that respect, I would say, yeah, I do feel sorry for the club. But I don’t think that the club handled it in the way that they should have.”
The Suraez affair erupted after Evra raised complaints that he had been called a “negrita” by the Uruguayan player. Tomorrow’s FA Cup tie at Anfield will be the first time the long-standing rivals have faced each other since the incident.
Both sides have taken measures to try and prevent tensions from flaring, with United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, sending a letter to ticket holders urging them to work with stewards.
Manager Kenny Dalglish said the focus should be on the football, adding: “We want to concentrate on going out and playing football, and any other sideshow is purely that, it is just a sideshow.”