January 7, 2013 by mapperleystag1
The controversial Liverpool striker’s antics at Mansfield yesterday have merely added further justification to those voices who have labelled the Uruguayan “a cheat” for his actions in recent years. Equally, the reactions of the Liverpool management and supporters to the incident have reaffirmed views that they are blinded by their admiration for one of the world’s most talented, yet divisive players.
The first time many became aware of Luis Suarez was in the 2010 World Cup Quarter-Final between Uruguay and Ghana. In an entertaining and competitive match which went into extra-time, a Dominic Adiyiah goalbound header looked to have booked the African side a place in the semi-finals, until Suarez intervened, blocking the attempt with his hands. By itself, this is not such a disgraceful action- any player in Suarez’s position would have in all likelihood done the same. However, his celebration as Asamoah Gyan blasted the resulting penalty onto the bar was tastelessness personified. Quite why Suarez was still by the side of the pitch and heading down the tunnel as all players sent-off are required to do has not been explained. Indeed, his gleeful reaction, watched by millions around the world, was hardly a ringing endorsement of FIFA’s heavily promoted fair-play initiatives. Equally unsavoury were Suarez’s boasts about making “the save of the tournament” afterwards. By contrast, the response of Ghana coach, Milovan Rajevac, who branded the player a “villain and a cheat” appeared to sum up the feelings of most onlookers who had witnessed what had happened.
Only a few months after his World Cup exploits, Suarez made the news again when he bit PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder during Ajax’s 0-0 draw with the Eindhoven side. Despite Suarez apologising, he was given a seven match suspension and was labelled the “Cannibal of Ajax” by Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf. This turned out to be his last involvement in Dutch football as Liverpool bought the player in January 2011.
At Anfield, Suarez has shown English fans both why he is a leading player in world football and the other questionable side to his character. This more objectionable side was infamously demonstrated in Liverpool’s clashes with bitter rivals Manchester United last season. In the first game, Suarez caused outrage by seemingly racially abusing Patrice Evra, with the United left-back claiming that the Uruguayan had used the word “negro” five times in their argument. Despite the protestations of both player and club, which appeared to revolve around dismissing the incident as one of “cultural” differences, as well as further undermining Evra and questioning the moral integrity of the FA, Suarez was found guilty and banned for eight matches, with the independent panel concluding that his “use of the term (negro) was not intended as an attempt at conciliation or to establish rapport; neither was it meant in a conciliatory or friendly way.”
Despite grudgingly accepting the ban, Liverpool’s belief that they were the victims of a perceived slight by the football authorities only escalated in the following months. Before their match at Wigan, Liverpool players and staff illustrated their support for Suarez, wearing a T-shirt bearing his name and image. However, this protest was seen as conflicting with football’s anti-racism campaign, thereby generating further bad publicity for the player and club.
Matters reached boiling point with Liverpool’s return fixture at Old Trafford. During the pre-game handshakes, Suarez appeared to point-blank refuse to shake Evra’s hand, even when the United player grabbed Suarez’s arm and threw his own up in protest. After the match, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish unwisely and rather forcefully stated that it was “bang out of order to blame Luis Suarez for anything that happened here today.” Although he had not witnessed the incident, the very fact that Dalglish was so quick to jump to the defence of his player to such extraordinary lengths gave the impression that here was a man out of time, unable to adjust to a footballing world that had significantly changed since his last spell in management. Although both Suarez and Dalglish were forced to apologise, the Uruguayan continued with his criticisms. In May, he called his suspension “strange and unbelievable.” Two months later, he accused Manchester United of wielding “political power” to get him suspended as a way of getting at Liverpool. Even the media was not spared his fury, with Suarez suggesting that coverage of the handshake was manipulated, despite photographic evidence proving otherwise.
As well as being labelled “a racist” by many, Suarez has also been widely condemned for his gamesmanship and unsporting behaviour on the pitch. In his spell in England, he has developed an unwanted reputation for diving. Tony Pulis, the usually calm David Moyes and former Liverpool player Mark Lawrenson are just a few of those who have accused the player of diving. His disciplinary issues stretch far beyond diving though. At the age of just 15, Suarez was sent off for headbutting a referee.
Yesterday, Suarez’s affinity for using his arm as a third leg was highlighted once again on the national stage, with the player scoring what proved to be decisive goal for Liverpool to barely inch past non-league side Mansfield Town after a blatant and deliberate handball endorsed by the “12th Red” Andre Marriner. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool supporters and management were quick to defend the player and yet again attempt to use this as further evidence of a conspiracy against Suarez and their club. However, ESPN commentator Jon Champion summed up the mood of the vast majority of neutral observers when he, much to the chagrin of unashamed Scouse viewers, desperate for someone other than themselves to blame for their lacklustre showing, said that the goal was the “work of a cheat.”
The intention of this article is not to undermine Luis Suarez’s talent as a footballer in any way. However, it is because of the fact that he is one of the world’s most gifted players and, consequently, a role model for many young football fans worldwide that makes some of his antics so unfortunate. Sadly, in an age where footballers are renowned for their off-field misdemeanours and lack of respect, unbefitting of the substantial amounts of money that they earn, Suarez currently stands head and shoulders above the crowd in bringing the game into disrepute through his poor judgement in what he has said and how he has acted on the pitch at certain points. It is high time that Liverpool followers ended their baseless conspiracy theories about how the player and club have been the targets of an organised victimisation campaign against them. All their complaints have succeeded in achieving is to portray them as increasingly desperate defenders of the, at times, indefensible – as highlighted again yesterday.