Suarez's eight-match ban and fine is suspended pending any appeal
His club Liverpool expresses disappointment with the decision
Uruguay international denies insulting Manchester United's Patrice Evra
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has been found guilty of racially abusing a Manchester United player in October, the English Football Association announced on Tuesday.
The Uruguay international was suspended for eight matches and fined £40,000 ($63,000) after a seven-day hearing by an independent regulatory commission. He has 14 days to appeal the punishment, the FA said.
Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, who is black, said the word Suarez shouted repeatedly during the October 15 Premier League match was a racial slur and demanded that Suarez be held accountable.
Liverpool issued a statement saying it was “very surprised and disappointed” with the decision.
“We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play – including Evra’s own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players,” the club said.
“We will study the details reasons of the commission once they become available, but reserve our right to appeal or take any other course of action we feel appropriate with regards to this situation.”
Suarez did not specify what he said, but has previously said it wasn’t offensive.
“I didn’t insult him. It was only a form of expressing myself. I called him something his own teammates from Manchester call him,” Suarez said, according to the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais.
British media reports suggested Suarez used the term “negrito.”
Scholars who have studied race issues in Latin America say that such a term can have different meanings and connotations in different nations.
Generally, however, negrito is not considered a racial slur in Latin America, said Mark Sawyer, director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at the University of California Los Angeles. “It’s often a term of endearment,” he said.
But Dr. Carmen Fracchia, a Paraguayan who works in the Iberian and Latin American Studies department of Birkbeck University of London, told CNN that the term is not affectionate when it refers to strangers.
In a post on his Facebook page shortly after the match, Suarez said he was upset by the allegations.
“I can only say that I have always respected and respect everybody,” he said. “We are all the same. I go to the field with the maximum (enthusiasm) of a little child who enjoys what he does, not to create conflicts.”
Evra, who is a Senegal-born French citizen, said in an interview with France’s Canal Plus that evidence supported his claim.
“There are cameras,” the former France national team captain said. “You can see him say a certain word to me at least 10 times. There is no place for that in 2011.”
The commission found that Suarez “used insulting words towards Mr. Evra” and that those words “included a reference to Mr. Evra’s color,” the FA statement said.
Liverpool noted that in his written statement, even Evra said he did not believe Suarez is racist.
“Luis himself is of a mixed-race family background, as his grandfather was black,” the club said.
It noted that Suarez has been involved since the 2010 World Cup in “a charitable project which uses sport to encourage solidarity amongst people of different backgrounds with the central theme that the colour of a person’s skin does not matter … We do not recognize the way in which Luis Suarez has been characterized.”
The club said it believes the FA was “determined to bring charges against Luis Suarez, even before interviewing him at the beginning of November. Nothing we have heard in the course of the hearing has changed our view that Luis Suarez is innocent of the charges against him and we will provide Luis with whatever support he now needs to clear his name.”
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.