I hate to say it but the second goal Liverpool scored against Mansfield in this weekend’s FA Cup 3rd round tie should not have stood. Suarez handled the ball, giving himself an unfair advantage, in the seconds before he put the ball in the back of the net. We all know that. However, this does not warrant the tirade of abuse that the Uruguayan has been subject to.
Branded a ‘cheat’, a ‘racist’ and ‘disrespectful’, Suarez is never far from controversy. In fact, if he hasn’t caused a stir in a few weeks you are almost expecting something to happen in the next game. Pop your head round the corner and controversy is there staring Suarez full in the face. Does this stop him? If anything it spurs him on.
Lets quickly take you back to the start of this season where Demba Ba handles the ball into the net away at Reading. Demba Ba in a post match interview describes the goal as ‘fortunate’ but ‘unintentional’. Fair enough. The referee didn’t spot it; neither did his assisting officials. The goal stands; the media witch hunt quickly deteriorates. Sadly I don’t think that this chase for Suarez’s exploits to be punished will not be dropped as readily by the media. This is no ‘Hand Of God’, the Liverpool striker didn’t mimic actions of a legitimate move with an illegal part for an advantage: the ball struck him at pace from a short distance.
From Evra-gate we can see that not much harms Suarez’s ego and this has been shown no truer than in the last week. We can see that Suarez knew it was handball; we can even see that he expects it to be given as a freekick to Mansfield. His lashing right boot into the empty net expresses all of this. However the end result is nothing but an expression of shock, resonating from his face.
The lazy claim of the kiss of the hand after the goal as ‘gloating’ is merely stupid. If some journalists really did watch football matches and not just think they did; they would see that Suarez kisses his wrist after every goal he scores. This is for no further reason than he has his daughters name inked in that particular part of his anatomy. You might also notice that he kisses his finger; this is again a sentimental part of his game to show his love for his wife.
Suarez is a player who, at the start of his Liverpool career, was treated badly by the media team at Anfield. His image was not necessarily one of ‘the good guy’ but instead that of one to be attacked. Since then, under Rodgers especially, Suarez and his media team have tried to rekindle some integrity and the media was beginning to follow suit. They were starting to write articles defining the player as something to be loved rather than loathed. Certain agendas were beginning to be rewritten. A swift U-Turn happened on what I’m going to call ‘The Morning After’.
The Mansfield chairman has only fuelled the already burning fire with his comments. John Radford has claimed that Liverpool directors were ‘embarrassed’ by the incident. He furthers this by claiming Suarez ‘enjoyed’ what he did and that he did it ‘deliberately’. Obviously we have to take into consideration the emotional side of Radford’s statements. He is rightly angered by the incident and how it has ejected his beloved non-league side out of the FA Cup. However what can’t be excused is the lack of clear reasoning for his comments.
As a striker you are taught from a young age to exploit mistakes and play on the edge of the rules to gain even that slight advantage over your opponent. You are told to get away with what you can and play to the whistle. Suarez, or any player, shouldn’t have to referee their own match; there is a paid professional on the pitch to do that for them. All Suarez has done is stay true to his roots, hasn’t he? The video footage show that he knows he has done wrong but the instantaneous glance to the officials exacerbates the knowing that it hasn’t been spotted.
Jon Champion was the worst of the lot. The ESPN commentator instantly named the incident ‘work of a cheat’. Now, as a referee myself, there is only one word used on a football pitch that registers a straight red card. That word is ‘cheat’. Champion is a seasoned pro when it comes to live match commentating and therefore should know better. Another thing that as a referee I noted; the official for the match was experienced Premier League referee, Andre Marriner. This is someone that isn’t naïve to this sort of controversy at all, thus, a part of the blame must be put on him – although not wholely.
Paul Cox, the Mansfield Town manager, said it best: "Just because it's Luis Suárez, he gets a bad wrap for it. He's a goalscorer and that's instinct. I wouldn't call him a cheat." Instinct. Perfect. Adrenaline rushes to your brain so quickly that it’s impossible to resist the urge. Add this to the already driving desire to stick the ball in the back of the net and you have an honest mistake. If this mistake is seen by the match officials and the foul is given; nothing more would be said.
Gordon Strachan also put the incident quite nicely; “if you park your car on double yellow lines and get away with it, do you phone the council and offer to pay the fine?” Ofcourse you don’t, you may feel guilty but you have bent the rules to advantage yourself but for honest means; sometimes maybe even unintentionally.
Whatever side of the argument that you stand on, you can quite clearly see that the goal shouldn’t have stood on that Sunday evening. What you can’t argue, in my opinion, is whether or not it was intentional. At the end of the day, it was given; move on.