Dishonorable Victory

Luis Suarez converts from striker to goalkeeper

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!

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9 responses to “Dishonorable Victory

  1. Pingback: Suarez reveals colors again | Good4sports Blog

  2. Sorry, Bob, I’m not buying what you’re selling with this one. Hastings is spot on. Any player would have done what Suarez did. It’s not like there was no repercussion… A red card was given and Gyan couldn’t make good on his third penalty of the tournament. End of story. If you want talk about controversy, why don’t you focus on England’s equalizer vs Germany or the goal against Mexico that was clearly offside?

  3. Jeff Hastings

    Bob,
    True, Suarez is no hero, but neither is he any villain. He did what any WC striker would/should have done in the same situation. If the beautiful game needs rule changes to maintain the aesthetics, then FIFA needs to change them. i.e. grant a goal to deliberate handball in the box. I, like the rest of your commenters, above, feel there are MANY more important things they should tackle first, like- speaking of tackles- the theatrics that seem to comletely dupe the Laurel and Hardy refs- are they for real?!?! There is no chance this sport makes it in USA market without fixing the dives. At least working with players to make them look more realistic. None of these dudes would even get a call-back for WWF which is really the bare minimum that the US market will tolerate.

    Anyway, back to your/my point-the best players know the rules and play right to the hairy edge in order to gain every advantage and should not be judged for their actions, particularly when they are successful in finding loopholes. If you want a game where nice guys finish first, try… well I’m not sure what sport you’d try. Even tiddlie winks, speed walking, and synchronized swimming reward players who stretch the rules and boundaries. HMMM. Shit. Hopefully nice guys get their rewards socially… or at least through some intrinsic feedback loop that god has made for us. God bless god.

    Oh, and speaking of god: I haven’t followed the Suarez deal or heard his hands of god quote. He should have gotten a second red card and a swift spanking for that… not the sacrilege (which I applaud) but the complete audacity and ignorance- Uruguay (and Suarez) will very, very soon be an after-thought and tough, tough trivia question. (Damn… I know it was a team that started with U but I can’t recall… was it Uzbekistan?) But hey, when the spotlight shines we’ve all got to be ready with our 6 second sound bite. Got to give him that: he (and Uruguay) made the most of it.

  4. I agree with your view Bob. To me since the hands play no part of the play, or at least are not intended to be used, the situation is vastly different than that of the reader who made the hockey comparison. In soccer/football, no player other than the goalie should ever consider intentionally using their hand to play the ball. Look beyond the rules, playing with integrity and honour means abiding by the rules both written and unwritten. Clearly Suarez knowingly committed the foul regardless of how he or any supporter of his actions sees it, it was wrong and should have not happened.

  5. Jean-Paul Ruszkowski

    Bob,
    No one was hurt by Suarez’ action. Some fouls are more of the sort to snuff out life! They usually do not carry a red card!!!
    Cheers!
    J-P

  6. JP,
    you don’t shock me, but you are outrageous! Passion is the stuff of life, but unmitigated, it has the power to snuff out life.

  7. Jean-Paul Ruszkowski

    Dear Bob,
    There is a difference between scoring with your hand and using your hand to stop a goal. He did what anyone in his position would do to avoid defeat. He gave his team another chance with the penalty that Ghana did not capitalize on.
    Those who have suggested that they would never do this are not playing soccer with passion. I can tell you that if I was an Uruguayan player I would be thankful that my teamate was awake and did what Suarez did. A hero that is another story but yes a good teamate!! Hope I have not schocked you Bob!

  8. Charlie johnson

    In rugby union in a comparable situation where a player stops 80% chance of a try(I’m guessing the stat) the referee can award a penalty try. While this would not be easy to replicate in soccer there isa lot to be admired in the ‘hands on’ nature of rugby refereeing. Still with refereeing I can not support refs from small FAs taking charge of important matches in the interests of giving every one a go the Usbek ref coped well with his highly hyped game but the Japanese rf gave ther pens,one a retake and missed the only justifiable call, the foul on Fabregas just after the 2nd save!

  9. Don’t agree Bobo – what he did certainly was punishable by soccer rules – but Ghana did not take advantage. It is no different than freezing the puck in a goalie’s crease with your hand, throwing your stick to stop a breakaway, mauling a wide receiver if you as a defensive back have been burned. I have no issue with a player using his hand to stop a goalie – much more often than not it ends up as a goal (just not this time). To me seeing these “athletes” dive and fake injury is so much more annoying and quite frankly ridiculous!
    GO DUTCH GO!!

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