Saturday, July 10, 2010

My take on the Suarez Incident


1) What Suarez did was understandable. Many footballers would have done the same thing. Right at the death he prevented what would have been certain progression to the semis for Ghana. He kept his side in it. Every football player knows that a deliberate handball on the line is a red card and a penalty. But he knew that even if he were given these punishments Uruguay would still have a chance because Ghana would have to convert the penalty. A guaranteed goal would become a 70 or 80% chance of a goal. It was the most important match he had ever played and it was understandable that he would act in this way. This doesn't make it right - it was cheating no doubt about it, but you can see how it transpired.

2) The referee made the 100% correct decision of a red card and a penalty. The red card was no advantage for Ghana because it was right at the end of the match, but the penalty was. Ultimately Gyan only has himself to blame for missing the penalty that would have got them through and avoided a penaly shoot-out.

3) Because Ghana missed the penalty it is true to say that the underlying message is that cheats prosper. Suarez cheated by preventing a certain goal, he and Uruguay were punished, and yet they progressed to the semi. Some have called for football to introduce a penalty goal (for situations when a guaranteed goal is prevented by handling on the line) in a similar way that rugby has a penalty try. The problem with thisis that it puts too much pressure on the referees to get it right. It is also quite a radical change in football's rules that may not be necessary. I am open to the debate however.

4) The one match ban for Suarez is not enough punishment. He should be sent home in disgrace and banned for the remainder of the tournament (effectively two games). Due to the fact that denying a goal scoring opportunity is only deemed worthy of a one match ban FIFA decided not to extend the ban. I think this is a clear case in which discretion should be applied to ban him for the rest of the tournament. Compare it to Kewell's dismissal for handling on the line against Ghana. Not a decision I disagree with but my point is compare that one match ban with the one match ban for Suarez when Suarez's was so blatant and so deliberate. Why should Suarez get the opportunity to play in one more game (potentially a World Cup final) and try to win the Golden Boot? He has denied, by cheating, another team the chance to play any more games at the World Cup. Why should he get that chance? FIFA's Fair Play ethos states that there is no pleasure in cheating - well anyone who witnessed this incident would surely see that Suarez has derived much pleasure from it and will continue to do so.

5) For me - worse than the handball itself was Suarez's behaviour after the game. He made comments like "this was the save of the tournament", "mine is the real Hand of God" etc. He considers himself a hero. Uruguayan supporters no doubt consider him a hero. This is distasteful. So is him being paraded around the stadium as a hero. I don't disagree that it is fine for him to be pleased, to pump the fists in celebration as this is a natural instant reaction to a victory. But he took it to a complete another level. He showed zero humility when this was a situation crying out for some. If I had been him I would have wanted to say bad luck to the Ghanaians. I would have celebrated but I would have showed more respect, and appeared a litle sheepish rather than parading myself around in complete exaltation.

6) Those who say Suarez is not a cheat because he was punished by the ref, and that Maradona and Henry are, because the ref did not pick it up, miss the point. Whether the actions are caught or not by the ref is an irrelevance. Cheating is trying to gain an advantage by doing something illegal, regardless of whether or not it is caught or punished. For scale of offending I put Maradona as the worst followed by Suarez then Henry. The reason I have Maradona as number 1 is because his handball was to score a goal, something that was not a necessity at this point.

7) Those who say - if that is cheating does that make every time a player tries to con the officials into giving a throw-in to the wrong team a cheat? Does it make throwing the ball an extra couple of yards forward from where a free-kick is supposed to be taken cheating? The answer is yes, those players are cheating, but to a MUCH lesser extent.

8) I have read three other repeated opinions about how the incident is controversial. A] It should never have been a free-kick in the first place. I agree with that, it did not appear to be the correct decision to award the free-kick that led to the handball incident. B] Ghana were offside during the free-kick. I disagree. I have been through a replay of the incident frame by frame and I don't see any evidence of this so-called offside. C] The ball was over the line when Suarez handled. Again I believe this is wrong after studying the incident frame by frame.

9) Gyan showed great courage to step up and score the first penalty of the penalty shoot-out. After the miss that hit the crossbar he was visibly shaking and finding it hard to compose himself. After losing the penalty shoot-out Gyan was inconsolable. He had scored two great penalties in the group stage to help Ghana to the second round and he had scored one in the penalty shoot-out. But for the most important penalty in his life he was the one that effectively ended Ghana's dream.

10] Uruguay making the semi is an injustice. Suarez denied Ghana this opportunity by handling on the line. Also, Ghana were the better team overall. But it is only a small injustice because the referee picked it up and made the 100% correct decisions of red card and penalty. Real injustices are ones which the referee has not spotted. Mexico's first goal against Argentina and Lampard's goal that wasn't were injustices. The Maradona Hand of God and the Hand of Henry are massive injustices. This is different although there is still some injustice to it.

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