John Barnes blasts Luis Suarez 'witch hunt'

John Barnes
Image caption John Barnes received 79 England caps during his playing career

Former Liverpool and England footballer John Barnes has attacked a "witch hunt" against Luis Suarez after he was banned for racially abusing another player.

The Liverpool striker was banned by the FA for eight games for using "insulting words" in reference to Manchester United defender Patrice Evra's colour.

Barnes defended Suarez, saying: "As much as we will say ignorance is no excuse, ignorance is an excuse."

He said that "cultural differences have to be taken into consideration".

'Zero tolerance'

Barnes, who played for Liverpool from 1987 to 1997, endured racial abuse throughout his playing career.

Speaking on BBC Radio Merseyside, he said: "From a cultural point of view, [Suarez] has been backed by people from Uruguay saying the word he used is not deemed as a racist term."

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Media captionJohn Barnes said that the Suarez racism row had become a "witch hunt".

He continued: "As much as we will say that ignorance is no excuse, ignorance is an excuse."

"Twenty years ago in England, the same people in England now condemning him were ignorant as to what racism is. Why don't they condemn themselves?"

Barnes, who received 79 England caps, continued: "When Manchester United play Liverpool and 10,000 United fans are saying 'you Scouse thieves', I'd like them all to be banned."

Image caption The allegations against Suarez stemmed from a Premier League match in October

"And Liverpool fans too, when they say 'you Manc or whatever'. So where are we going to draw the line? Racism has to be zero tolerance but this is now a witch hunt."

Suarez intends to appeal against the ruling, which stemmed from allegations made following a Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United on 15 October.

Barnes said: "By admitting [what he said], he obviously didn't feel that what he said was that significant.

"Because he could easily have gotten away with it by saying 'I never said a word'."

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