Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has been handed a lengthy ban and hefty fine after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
Suarez, a Uruguay international, was charged by the Football Association with abusing the Manchester United defender and referring to his "ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race" and faced a disciplinary hearing last week.
Evra told French TV he was racially abused by the Uruguayan on 10 occasions during Manchester United's Premier League match at Anfield on October 15.
The FA has punished Suarez with an eight-match ban and £40,000 fine; he has 14 days to respond but tweeted on Tuesday: "Today is a very difficult and painful day for me and my family.
''I'm upset by the accusations of racism. I can only say that I have always respected and respect everybody. We are all the same. I go to the field with the maximum illusion of a little child who enjoys what he does, not to create conflicts.''
An FA statement read: "An Independent Regulatory Commission has today [Tuesday 20 December 2011] found a charge of misconduct against Luis Suarez proven, and have issued a suspension for a period of eight matches as well as fining him £40,000, pending appeal.
"On 16 November 2011, The Football Association charged Luis Suarez with misconduct contrary to FA Rule E3 in relation to the Liverpool FC versus Manchester United FC fixture on 15 October 2011. A hearing took place from 14-20 December 2011 before an Independent Regulatory Commission of The FA to consider the charge.
"The Independent Regulatory Commission announced its decision on 20 December 2011, which is as follows:
• Mr Suarez used insulting words towards Mr Evra during the match contrary to FA Rule E3(1);
• the insulting words used by Mr Suarez included a reference to Mr Evra's colour within the meaning of Rule E3(2);
• Mr Suarez shall be warned as to his future conduct, be suspended for eight matches covering all first team competitive matches and fined the sum of £40,000;
• the [penalty] is suspended pending the outcome of any appeal lodged by Mr Suarez against this decision.
"Mr Suarez has the right to appeal the decision of the Independent Regulatory Commission to an Appeal Board. An appeal must be lodged within 14 days of the date of the written reasons for the decision.
"The penalty is suspended until after the outcome of any appeal, or the time for appealing expires, or should Mr Suarez decide not to appeal. The reason for this is to ensure that the penalty does not take effect before any appeal so that Mr Suarez has an effective right of appeal."
Suarez has always denied the allegations levelled against him by Evra. Opinion has been divided on the issue with Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish backing Suarez and Brighton manager Gus Poyet, a former Uruguay international midfielder, saying he would go to court to prove his fellow countryman was not a racist.
But United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Evra and claimed Liverpool were following a specific agenda over the issue.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish also said via his twitter account: "Very disappointed with today's verdict. This is the time when @luis16suarez needs our full support. Let's not let him walk alone. KD.''