Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Suarez the Swindler?

Is he a national hero or a low down, dirty cheat?

That’s the debate right now in soccer circles after Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez’s actions on Friday morning in his side’s controversial win over Ghana on penalties.

In the final seconds of extra time, with Ghana pressing and a Dominic Adiyiah header floating towards the back of the net, Suarez used his hands to keep the score tied by clearing the ball away. For that he was given a straight red card and the Ghanaians were awarded a penalty, but Asamoah Gyan struck iron and the last African nation left in the tournament went out on penalties.

Ghana missed not one, but two opportunities when it came to penalty kicks, losing 4-2 – it probably shouldn’t have gotten that far though, but for a blatant display of unsportsmanlike behavior and a disregard for the notion of “fair play” at the World Cup (maybe Maradona was right about that being absent).

So, is Suarez a straight-up cheater, or is he a ‘hero’ for sacrificing himself for next game and doing whatever it takes, red card and all, to win?

If you ask his teammates, who carried him on their shoulders after the game, it’s the latter. Just ask Diego Forlan:

“It is a pity, he made a great save today. Suarez is one of the heroes. He didn’t score a goal but he saved one and now we are in the semi-final…Suarez saved us.”

If you feel like Suarez is scum because of his actions, you won’t like what he had to say after the game about himself:

“I think I made the best save of the World Cup…the way in which I was sent off today – truth is, it was worth it.”

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez tells ESPN he doesn’t see his player as a cheater:

“I think [calling him that] would be too far-fetched and too twisted. To think that Suarez, when he committed the handball, knew what was going to happen afterward would be something superhuman. The hand of Suarez is the hand of God and the Virgin Mary -- that's how Uruguayans see it.”

The coach’s comments come in the wake of news that FIFA is studying the Suarez incident to see if he deserves a longer suspension than the customary one game.

If Uruguay win on Tuesday, they’re in the final and if they lose, they’ll play for third place, so a two-game suspension would really punish the forward for what he did. Should he get a two-match ban though?

For me, it’s a tough one – I know there are people who think you should do whatever it takes to win, even if it means breaking the rules for the greater good. Those people might say this is no worse than Carlos Tevez knowing he was a mile offside but still knocking the ball in, or a player taking a fall in the box to dupe the ref into giving a penalty…but I’m sorry, it is worse.

Had Suarez not (intentionally) used his hand to stop the ball from going into the net, Ghana would be through to the semi-finals. It came at a point in the game where it was all Ghana and a goal would have been well deserved. The most important thing here though is that it happened with literally seconds left in the game.

Sure, giving a penalty kick (not to mention a red card) should have been the advantage for the Ghanaians, but on the day it wasn’t.

In hockey, if a player is skating towards an empty net and he’s taken down, the ref just gives the goal – that should probably have been what happened here. The goalie was nowhere to be seen and the only thing able to stop Uruguay’s exit from the tournament was an action that warranted a straight red card – why not just give the goal?

The Hand of God and the Virgin Mary? Please.

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