Rigorous debate has been carried out in pubs and cafes all over the world over the Suarez versus Evra affair. Many see it as a Liverpool versus Manchester United affair, others as an anti-racism debate. Whatever your take is on the matter, it has dominated the free speaking press all over the world.

When the incident first played out at Anfield in an English Premier League match in October last year, debate raged over the guilt or innocence of the Uruguayan super star. It was Suarez’s word versus Evra’s yet the tribunal deemed there was enough evidence to suspend Suarez for 8 matches with a hefty 40,000 pound fine for good measure.

Suarez has never wavered in his defence that he is innocent, claiming the word ‘nigrito’ in his culture is not a racist comment yet Evra was clearly offended and believed he was indeed called a ‘nigger’ which is highly offensive in most cultures around the world in this day and age. The English FA have had to handle several racist cases recently and the timing was not ideal for Luis Suarez. They had to make a strong statement and they did, condemning him as guilty.

The eight matches and fine Suarez will recover from but the reputation as a racist for the rest of his life is a lot harder to deal with. This is where I believe Suarez may have played his cards right on Saturday ignoring the hand of Evra.

Before Manchester United supporters scream blue murder take one moment and step into Suarez’s shoes. The man thinks he is innocent and he confronts his adversary who has wrongfully branded him as a racist (in his mind) at the start of a tense derby match ready for 90 minutes of battle.

His resentment towards Evra would be extreme, as high as Evra’s resentment towards Suarez, yet most see Evra as the victim and Suarez as the guilty racist. John Barnes, the great Liverpool winger was a victim of some deplorable racism in the 80s and 90s, a time when the world had still not developed a stance against the hatred of racism. However, Barnes, a strong anti-racism campaigner, feels all this controversy could have been avoided if the decision had been made to scrap the pre-match handshakes altogether.

“I can tell you they won’t be making a big issue over either of the Suarez or John Terry situations in other countries,” Barnes told the Liverpool Echo.

“The reputation of English football around the world is not going to be damaged at all. “I don’t care if somebody shakes my hand or not. It’s not a big deal, it’s insincere, it doesn’t mean much, they’re shaking hands for show. I don’t believe they should be ,put in that situation.

“We’re getting carried away with a bunch of incidents here that, in the bigger picture, don’t mean much. Football clubs have to react to it because of what we do in the media.” Barnes believes the whole incident has been blown out of all proportion by a media determined to produce eye-grabbing headlines, and that far too much was made of the handshake before kick-off.

The matter is highlighted for the fact Suarez is a world class striker, one of the best over the last 12 months and an irreplaceable talent in a Liverpool team starved of creative attacking talent at present. He wears the iconic number 7 shirt, made famous by his Liverpool manager, the man they call ‘King Kenny’, Scotsman and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish.

Sir Alex Ferguson threw in his two cents and called Suarez a disgrace, taking it even further by stating he should never play for Liverpool again. I don’t think any person takes Ferguson seriously with those comments. He received his knighthood for being possibly the greatest British manager that ever lived, not for being the standard bearer of ethics and class. Ferguson is a street fighter and will take any advantage he can get against his most fierce rival. He plays the political game perfectly and his comments were a metaphorical jab to his opponent ensuring some extra blow torch and pressure on the incident None forget how he has accommodated Eric Cantona assaulting a spectator with a karate kick in an act of thuggery and lunacy or with Rio Ferdinand’s drug testing fiasco or the recent Giggs family sex scandal.

Of course Sir Alex defended them vehemently because these players win football games, yet he wants Suarez kicked out of Liverpool over a hand shake. You don’t fool anyone Sir Alex: hypocrisy is the only word that comes to mind. Dalglish is no different to Ferguson in that he is doing his job and defending his player.

These managers are the bosses of large multi-million dollar businesses and they will do and say whatever they have to in order to protect their team. Predictably, only a day later, an official apology was made through the press from Liverpool and Suarez ensuring all political damage was minimised so the incident can be closed finally and both clubs can move on. What remains is the stigma for Suarez and whether this nasty image of racism will stick with him long term. This is why refusing to shake Evra’s hand may be the stand he wanted and needed to take in his last act of defiance over the matter before all the politically correct public relations exercises were inevitably going to take over.

It’s a fine line, some think Suarez is completely in the wrong from day one, but one thing is for sure, once he starts banging in the goals again for club and country his supporters will be chanting his name again from the terraces. World Class strikers are like hen’s teeth, extremely hard to find and I am afraid that’s what really matters in the end to football clubs most of the time. Ultimately, racism should not be tolerated at any level, so let’s hope this message is the one lesson that comes out of this whole sad and sorry football tragedy. Whether Suarez is guilty or innocent, only he really knows.