Reports are that Luis Suarez is being hailed as a hero in Uruguay. Others commend his ultimate “sacrifice.” What do you think about the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa’s most controversial play in what was arguably the most exciting finish so far? Here’s what I think about Uruguay’s shootout victory of Ghana.First, I want to be clear about my understanding of the rules of soccer. There’s nothing to stop Luis Suarez, a striker, from assuming the position of goaler and stopping a sure goal with his hands. There is a cost – a red card, and a penalty kick for the opposing team – and the rule was properly applied in Friday’s quarter-final. In that sense, Suarez was not “cheating”. He knowingly, openly, committed a foul.
However, rules can only go so far in protecting and assuring the integrity of the “beautiful” game. The rest is up to the players. The spirit in which athletes pursue the sport is as important as how the rules are applied. Just as “diving” sullies the competition, so too does the striker’s decision to turn soccer into a game of netball.
Suarez’ desperate move — which literally grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat – is totally contrary to the concept of fair and just pursuit of sport. An inescapable, fundamental part of soccer is that it is played with the feet, and sometimes the head. Resorting to the use of hands to block a sure goal is akin to bringing the competition to a complete halt because things aren’t going the way you want. It’s just like the sulky child who spoils a sleepover at a friend’s house because things aren’t going his way, so he calls his parents to take him home. Things aren’t going my way, so I’m going to ignore everything we agreed to up to this point.
The real value in sport is the quest for victory, and not necessarily the victory itself. The message has to be how you win, and not if you win. In that sense, I find Uruguay’s victory a hollow one – one without honor. I’ve longed believed that honor is far more valuable than victory, and often harder to come by.
So, no, Suarez is not a hero in my books. Nor do I buy that he was “sacrificing” himself (the red card means he’s now out of the competition), because if he lets the ball in he’s also out of the tournament.
Finally, he describes himself as the “new hands of god.” I get the reference he’s trying to make to soccer history, but what a mockery he’s making of the sport and of god!