Posts Tagged ‘luis suarez’
I have two observations to make about the controversial goal scored by Luis Suarez yesterday, which has led to the player receiving both fierce criticism and also some strong support from many analysts and fellow players.
The first is that it is not the duty of players to make refereeing decisions.
Whether or not it should have been disallowed has in itself been debated. Some say that the ball ricocheted onto the arm of Suarez and therefore he couldn’t get out of the way. Others claim it was a deliberate attempt by the Liverpool striker to control the ball with his hand.
If it hadn’t been Luis Suarez, there would be much less attention given to the incident. Regardless of his undoubted talent, there have been too many controversial moments in a career where Suarez has rarely been out of the spotlight and as with some of football’s other controversial characters, such as Man City’s Mario Balotelli, the slightest hint of controversy involving Suarez attracts a media circus and endless analysis.
However, nothing in Suarez’s history should be referred to when looking at yesterday’s incident, if only for the simple fact that no one can claim with certainty that it was a deliberate handball.
Given that it was a handball though, should Suarez have been obliged to point it out to the referee? The answer to that is, of course, no.
If football was such an honest sport in which there was total fair play with no deceiving officials with skilfully crafted dives, or wasting time by feigning injury to disrupt matches and gain an advantage, then there would be a stronger argument for suggesting that Suarez had a duty to make known to the referee that the ball had hit his hand.
The reality of modern football is that it’s a world away from the above picture of a sport in which there is complete honesty, and in an ever more competitive sport – off the pitch as well as on it – there’s unlikely to be anyone playing the game today who would get a lucky break from a refereeing decision and then ask for it to be overturned.
If honesty existed then players wouldn’t argue against decisions such as free kicks or penalty decisions when they know full well that they’ve committed a foul. Nor would players accept decisions in their favour that have been awarded for fouls when there has been no contact.
The other point I wish to make is that it’s not the first time that such an incident has happened and it’s hard to understand why such great attention is being placed on Suarez. Even the Mansfield manager, Paul Cox, refused to criticize the player.
I don’t recall such a fuss being made when AC Milan’s Filippo Inzaghi directed the ball into the Liverpool net with his hand during the 2007 Champions League final in Athens. On that occasion Liverpool were the dominant side for much of the match – unlike the meeting between the two teams in the 2005 final – and Inzaghi’s goal was a pivotal moment in swinging the match in Milan’s favour.
There could have been Mourinho-style whingeing from everyone in Liverpool’s corner, but it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. It was a refereeing mistake and it went Milan’s way on that occasion. Against Mansfield, the decision was in Liverpool’s favour.
In the weeks, months and years to come, there’ll be scores more teams on the end of wrong decisions that prove costly. Most teams will benefit at some point, and suffer at other times.
But, after all, that’s football.
If you had seen the scoreline of Liverpool’s visit to Manchester City earlier in the week without having watched the match, you would have been forgiven for thinking that it was a bit of a mauling.
In reality, the contest was a perfect summing up of each respective side’s season so far, and Kenny Dalglish found exactly the right word to describe the difference between the sides when interviewed immediately after the game: clinical.
Man City were, Liverpool weren’t.
On the balance of play, Liverpool coped well with City. Stewart Downing could have opened the scoring for the Reds even before Sergio Aguero’s speculative strike dipped under the body of Pepe Reina to make it 1-0 early on.
And Liverpool’s play continued to impress even after going behind and looked capable of getting back into the game until Yaya Toure doubled the home team’s advantage.
From that moment on, Man City didn’t need to take risks pursuing further additions to the scoreline and while Liverpool tried desperately to find a way back into the game, there was the absence of a cutting edge up front, as there has been all season.
There have been contentious decisions along the way, such as disallowed goals scored by Andy Carroll against Sunderland, which would given Liverpool a 2-0 lead in a game eventually finishing 1-1, and Luis Suarez at Fulham, wrongly chalked off for offside with Liverpool in the ascendancy and the scores level. A late Fulham goal sent Liverpool back to Merseyside without even a point.
That game at Craven Cottage also included the controversial sending off of Jay Spearing, but Liverpool benefitted from an equally poor decision during the Merseyside derby when Jack Rodwell was wrongly dismissed.
Liverpool can’t complain about their league position or points tally based on a couple of costly errors by the officials though. Every team will suffer some injustices over a season, even if not all prove to be costly.
Nor can Liverpool claim that they’ve been on the end of too much bad luck. Sure, they were unlucky not to claim stoppage time goals against both Norwich and Man City thanks to world class goalkeeping in denying winning goals for Suarez and Carroll respectively.
Instead it is down to the quality of the team’s finishing. It’s not bad luck to miss four out of five penalties, with four different players guilty of failing from the spot, and although hitting the post or crossbar can often be deemed unlucky, it certainly can’t be said for a club to achieve such a feat no less than 18 times in half a season. That is clearly more an indication of inaccurate finishing than simple misfortune.
Yet there have been many positives throughout the season for Liverpool. Their general play and ability to create chances has been impressive to the point that in almost every game in which they’ve drawn, they would have been worthy winners.
The same can even be said of their defeat to Stoke, in which Liverpool failed to put away any of their 20 shots at goal and went down to a penalty scored at the other end, Stoke’s only shot on target in the entire match.
Indeed in Liverpool’s 20 league matches so far, just three have involved them enjoying less possession than their opponents, only four games have resulted in Liverpool having fewer shots on goal, and only three game saw the Reds register fewer corners than the opposition.
Statistics don’t always tell the whole truth but in Liverpool’s case they show up exactly where Liverpool’s weakness has been and the reason why they are competing for fourth place rather than the title: the team is simply not clinical enough in front of goal.
If the problem isn’t addressed quickly, it threatens to undermine the undoubted progress being made under Dalglish.
In punishing Luis Suarez for what were ultimately judged to be racist remarks which he made to Patrice Evra, the FA have made clear their zero tolerance of racism in football.
Rather than put an end to the issue however, the decision looks to have created a bitter dispute between the FA and Liverpool, which may rumble on for some time. Liverpool’s response was a total lack of acceptance of the FA’s verdict and the club are likely to appeal against the ban.
Whilst the club’s own response has hardly been welcomed warmly throughout the football world – something which few at Liverpool are likely to be concerned by – there are plenty of reasons why they are to feel as though Suarez been unfairly treated.
The widely documented cultural differences have been cited. Suarez has never denied using the words in which Evra found to be offensive, and that is to his credit in a dispute which is entirely one person’s word against another person’s; He could easily have denied saying anything to Evra at all, which would have made it impossible for the FA to issue a guilty verdict.
Having confirmed that he used the particular word(s) which the investigation centred around, Suarez’s argument was that the way in which it was used was not intended to offend.
Many journalists have already dismissed this idea, claiming that the Uruguayan’s four years spent in Holland should have left him in no doubt as to what is and isn’t acceptable in European culture. But being part of the same continent doesn’t automatically ensure that the culture is going to be exactly the same in two separate nations. Suarez cannot be assumed guilty based on that fact that having lived Holland for so long, he should be fully aware of what is acceptable in Britain.
The comments between both players were said to have taken place in Spanish. Therefore, the words cannot simply be translated into English and then a British meaning applied to the conversation. It’s not as straight-forwards as that and if it was, then Liverpool have a valid argument that Evra’s initial comment in which he is alleged to have said “Don’t touch me, you South American” could also be considered to have had a racist tone to it.
Yet the FA have shown no intention of charging the Man United player and in contrast, Suarez has often been portrayed as a guilty man long before the verdict was issued, and tasked with proving his innocence.
Also, in such a highly complex and difficult case, with no witnesses other than the two players involved, and which has taken so long for a verdict to arrive, the FA may have taken a big gamble in giving Suarez such a lengthy ban.
The case has been ongoing for over two months and it is more than five weeks since an initial charge was made against Suarez. If the evidence was clear enough for a charge to be issued in mid-November, why was there so long before a verdict could be reached? And if there remained doubts regarding the context, how could such a severe punishment be handed out with enough certainty that it was the right decision to make?
There is obviously pressure to demonstrate a commitment to the fight against racism by the FA and that should be supported. However it shouldn’t mean looking for the earliest possible opportunity to make an example of a high-profile player in order to prove such a commitment, especially in a case as complicated as that of Suarez and Evra.
Sending out a signal that offensive comments involving racist language will not be tolerated is something that the FA should be applauded for, though as unacceptable a crime as it is, it shouldn’t be punished so much more severely than, for example, a violent off-the-ball incident such as headbutting or stamping on an opponent, both of which would only carry a standard three match ban for an offence of violent conduct.
If intent on truly cleaning up the game, the FA need to be careful not to lose perspective when dealing with sensitive cases with a great deal of public interest.
It will be interesting to note the result of a Liverpool appeal, but the one certainty is that this case is one which is not going to go away quietly.
Kenny Dalglish may disagree, but the FA are right to be taking their time over their investigation into the race rows involving Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, and Anton Ferdinand and John Terry.
Both cases are being treated seriously and should either player be found guilty of racism, it will be fascinating to see how strongly they will be punished. If the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign is to be respected, any punishments which are handed out should go far beyond the standard three match ban imposed for most serious offences.
However to fully get to the bottom of both cases, the issue of whether any player at the centre of the controversy is also guilty of dishonesty may need to be addressed.
Should no evidence be found to support Patrice Evra’s claims that TV cameras would clearly show Luis Suarez repeatedly making alleged racist comments to him during Manchester United’s league game at Anfield, then the FA need to consider how to deal with Evra.
The United full back has been at the centre of previous allegations of racism, none of which have been proved. The player should also be well aware that any allegation which takes place during the match needs to be reported to the match officials, something he failed to do despite clearly feeling upset by what he alleges Suarez to have said.
In the case John Terry, post match comments stated that his alleged remark to Anton Ferdinand was taken out of context and that the matter was no longer an issue, having been sorted out following a discussion between the two players after the game.
If Ferdinand’s statement to the FA fails to support Terry, then the Chelsea and England captain is at the very least guilty of lying, and deliberately attempting to mislead any potential FA investigation from the outset.
Neither Suarez nor Terry have been found guilty of any offence as yet. But for the FA to conduct their investigation thoroughly, the allegations of racist comments may not be the only thing they need to look into.