Luis Suarez makes it into a goalkeeping blog by virtue of his dramatic late intervention in Uruguay’s dramatic triumph over Ghana. What he did was cynical and deliberate, yet also understandable. He knew what the ramifications of his actions would be and as events transpired, it was worth it. At least his goalkeeping talents are far superior to his acting talents judging by his poor ‘what, me ref?’ schtick in the aftermath. Losing on penalties is an immensely unappetising way to have your defeat served up to you, but the circumstances of Ghana’s exit are especially agonising.
It’s one of the classic hypot-ethical arguments in football. It rarely happens to be as dramatic as what we witnessed in the World Cup quarter-final, but the debate is essentially a simple one. With your team facing certain defeat in a hugely important game, would you knowingly break the rules and deny your opponents a goal? You know you’ll be sent off, but there’s the glimmer of hope that your goalkeeper will pull of a save or – as happened to Gyan – the pressure will force an error. Or alternatively, you adopt the Corinthian spirit, do your best to keep the ball out of the goal by legal means and if you fail, the goal is conceded and your team go out within the rules. The fact that the majority of people would opt for the first option says something is wrong with how such incidents are treated on the pitch.
Suarez got his marching orders and Uruguay live to fight another day. He’ll be suspended for that fight and most likely Uruguay won’t go beyond the semi-final, but it should end there. FIFA talking about extending the ban for Suarez is harsh and populist. He was dismissed and will serve out his ban as per the disciplinary procedures. Looking to extend it is a political action motivated by the fact the victims were the last African side in the first African World Cup. Sepp Blatter would have liked nothing more than to point to an African side in the semi-final and say his controversial tenure at the head of the game is a roaring success and the global game is now truly global. It was a tough way to go out, but further punishment is not necessary. A quick read of Andrew Jennings’ excellent expose, transparencyinsport.org lends weight to the argument that this potential extended ban has deeply political motivations. Blatter relies heavily on the votes of the African associations to keep him in power at FIFA and the gesture wold go a long way to appeasing an understandably aggrieved confederation that would have been delighted to have a team in the last four of a World Cup.
FIFA shouldn’t be looking to take their pound of flesh from Suarez. With the stakes so high, he did what most professional footballers have been conditioned to do – help his team to win regardless of the consequences. If football’s ruling body want, they can change the rules and basically award the goal without the need for the taking of a penalty. Although the odds of a penalty being scored are still in the favour of the attacking side, obviously having the goal on the board is far more desirable. A witch-hunt isn’t going to solve problems that need to be addressed.