JUST when you thought it was safe to say nice things about Luis Suárez, he goes and does it again. The dirty, cheating little so-and-so. There were even the first rumbling suggestions that he could be a potential footballer of the year.

It couldn’t last. Once again, Suárez is the most reviled foreigner since Abu Hamza.

The Uruguay forward has again outraged the British sense of fair play. To make it worse, he didn’t even pick on someone his own size. Little Mansfield Town, those plucky non-Leaguers, deserved better, surely?

Spare us the false rage. Suárez merely did what he is paid to do: score goals. The howls of outrage are hypocritical.

There are very few supporters who are horrified when their team cheat to score or stop a goal. Liverpool fans would have been grinning all the way back to Merseyside last night. Few bleeding hearts there.

It’s not just foreigners who do this sort of thing, either. Francis Lee, a man as English as Eccles cakes, deliberately knocked in a cross with a hand in an FA Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur in 1973. He gloated that the goal, the decisive score in a 3-2 win for Manchester City, “came in handy, a handy header”. It’s part of City folklore, a tale told with a smile and no sense of shame. Tottenham fans will never forgive Lee. That’s how it works.

Plenty of people will invoke some unrealistic and non-existent Corinthian spirit, but right and wrong tend to be entirely subjective in football. In Cameroon, they remember the World Cup quarter-final of 1990 as “the game when Gary Lineker dived”. In England, he’s a national treasure — he wouldn’t shift many packets of crisps in West Africa.

Those calling for Suárez to own up should consider the reverse scenario. Imagine a defender is hit on the hand in the penalty area and the referee misses it — as frequently happens.

Would anyone expect the player to alert the official and ask him to give a penalty to the opposition? It would almost be a sacking offence. So why would anyone expect the Liverpool forward to act differently?

It is easy to make a case that Suárez deserves his folk demon status. He bit Otman Bakkal, the PSV Eindhoven midfielder, in the face three years ago when playing for Ajax. It was an ugly, violent incident that brought him a long suspension.

There was a long ban, too, for his altercation with Patrice Evra at Anfield last season. That racially tinged spat had a corrosive effect on everyone it touched. But yesterday’s handball — and the infamous last-minute “save” against Ghana in the World Cup in South Africa — was entirely different. The vast majority of players would have acted in a similar manner.

Across football there are numerous people who are driven by an obsessive will to win. A handball here, a tugged shirt there, are commonplace. They do little harm. There are darker sides to this obsession.

There are some who are wilfully reckless on the pitch and put opposition players at risk. Worse, there are those whose fierce competitiveness leads them deliberately to hurt their rivals. This is where the focus of outrage should be aimed, at players who threaten health and careers.

Suárez is often the victim of those who try to use brute strength to stop the opposition. His trickery and range of skills leave him susceptible to rugged treatment, some of which exceeds the standards of decency by some way.

His reputation as a diver, a cheat and a serial handballer makes it easier to ignore this. And when he is kicked up in the air, many of those who rage against his unsportsmanlike behaviour will take pleasure in his pain. They will enjoy the sight of a cheat getting his comeuppance. The duplicity involved in these moral gymnastics will probably not even occur to them.

Suárez is one of the great pleasures of the Barclays Premier League at the moment. Along with Robin van Persie, he is playing at an elevated level of skill that brings a sanity and beauty to a game that appears increasingly haphazard and physical.

He is the sort of player you love when he is wearing your club’s colours and you hate when he is in opposition.

So let’s have less of the hysteria.

The real danger to the game is when brute force triumphs over talent. That is when we should be truly outraged. Sadly, we very rarely are.

The above piece was first featured in The Times and has been reproduced with permission.


  1. Still wish he’d have just put his hands up and admitted the offence. The counry views him as a cheat. No, he might not have meant it. But yes, it hit his hand. It would have been far better for him in the long term to have a fair play moment on his side.

  2. christobinsings

    At last and as usual sense from Tony E – quite ridiculous to suggest Suarez own up, where does it stop “Sorry ref I was offside” the sooner the better people realise that football like no other sport is rife with professionals prepared to do almost anything to bend twist and misshape the rules of play, all in the pursuit of gaining an advantage.
    If this pains fans so much I suggest you look away now!!!!

    • Robin Crimes

      I think a few people who’ve said he should have owned up will wake up feeling rather silly tomorrow when, in the cold light of day, they reflect on what they said. What an amazing place this world would be if we all adopted that kind of honesty. Unfortunately, it’s just too far fetched.

  3. @messerbest

    Only time I remember someone putting their hands up is Robbie Fowler. Then he “deliberately” missed the peno and then McAteer knocked in the rebound.

    Moral of the story is sportsmanship is tough to find, really. When defenders start waving their arms in the air and saying “I clipped him ref, it’s a penalty and a red I’d say”, then we can start lambasting strikers for making the most of a ball deflecting off of their outstretched hands.

  4. Robin Crimes

    Good old Luis! Uniting the Liverpool fans to fight the same cause instead of all the division amongst us.

    I’ve spent the day arguing with acquaintances on Facebook. He’s certainly more hated than Abu Hamza. There were even suggestions he should leave England. After the highlights though, on ITV, no one came back to comment and try to justify their earlier convictions and outbursts of pure hatred. It was obvious to me that after actually seeing the incident they realised it wasn’t actually that bad. The point being, they’re desperate to ‘get something on him’. It’s nothing less than hysteria. He can’t win them over now. They’ll never fully appreciate what a gift he is to the Premiership.

    Can I just finish by saying, one of my blue nose mates thought it would have been better if the fan who tried to accost Luis had a hatchet whilst proclaiming the handball was an absolute disgrace. Says it all to me.

  5. Why should he have to own up to it? It’s double standards of the worst sort. Jack Robinson and Joe Allen both handballed inside their own area in that same game. Where’s the outcry over those two?

    It’s just ‘cos it’s Suarez. That’s all. The best thing he can do is ignore it and carry on, which he thankfully seems to be doing. He’ll never change the public opinion. Just let it be.

  6. Jon Champion said “that’s cheating” as soon as it happened, Matt Smith said after the highlights “Sould he have held his hands up and said ‘I cheated'” ? No other player in England would have had such accusations against them in any commentary. All the papers this morning has it on their back page, to single him out for this when every other player would have done he same is – ironically – a little racist. Eventually the media will get their wish and diminish the Premiership by hounding him out of the country, even though he is the biggest talent the league has. Noticed there is little mention of the fan confronting Suarez, if that had been Rio he’d be looking at a 3 year ban now

  7. Jon Champion said “that’s cheating” as soon as it happened, Matt Smith said after the highlights “Sould he have held his hands up and said ‘I cheated'” ? No other player in England would have had such accusations against them in any commentary. All the papers this morning has it on their back page, to single him out for this when every other player would have done he same is – ironically – a little racitst. Eventually the media will get their wish and diminish the Premiership by hounding him out of the country, even though he is the biggest talent the league has. Noticed there is little mention of the fan confronting Suarez, if that had been Rio he’d be looking at a 3 year ban now

  8. Comparto el artículo en su totalidad. Soy uruguayo, creo que Luis Suárez es eso, amor y odio. Hoy podía haberse ganado a todos los fans ingleses si hubiera dicho, no cobren el gol, fue con la mano. ¿Pero se hubiera ganado el respeto realmente No creo, se hubieran reido de el, hubieran dicho que es un falso. Siempre tendrán algo contra el, por eso TodosSomosLuisSuarezAguanteLuchoContra VientoyMarea


  9. I don’t think anyone thinks he should have owned up. Merely that it was a great opportunity missed for him to claw some respect back after a string of bad press for everything from diving to stamping, biting and racism. We could have woken up to back pages of Suarez’s fairplay gesture.

    Instead his reputation is in the gutter still.

    • Agree 100% with above comment. Massive lost opportunity to put the media on the back foot. They’ve been hounding Suarez ever since he arrived at the club – even before the Evra set-up.

      Had he put his hands up as soon as the ball crossed the line he’d have been lauded and congratulated for his honesty and decency and made a mockery of the ‘you know what you are’ chants and derision the lad gets everytime he steps on the pitch.

      We shouldn’t need a ref’s error to get past a non-League club.

      Personally I’d have preferred to have seen him to hold his hands up and lose the goal even if it meant we went out of the competition.

      The media loves throwing shit at anything to do with the club and this has just provided the bastards with another bucket of ammunition.

  10. edzral armin

    as much as the irish hate thierry henry, no one can love him as much as the french.

    so, who cares about what the rest of the world think about suarez? a hypocrite will remain a hypocrite. don’t give me the argument ‘he should have admit it’ because no one will think that way in a split second. do we gave way to other cars in a traffic jam? heck. but tony’s right. those who wield them mighty pen should try to talk sense and the sheep will follow… not going to happen, right? well, at least they could try…

  11. Unfortunately parts of the media are responsible for the bad reputations of footballers (and many celebrities too). They are constantly under the microscope and the second they do the wrong thing they are savaged by an unsympathetic press! I was outraged at the comments from Espn’s Champion. I’m betting he’s never called a Manchester United player a cheat! He has an obvious dislike for Suarez. Is it because Suarez is South American and his football skills have made many British footballers look foolish?

  12. @icemanmase

    Quite simply, a great article full of realism and common sense. Doubt it will catch on though.

  13. kevin Roche

    Just sue ESPN for their commentary and it would put manners on a few in the media. It stoops a new low when a commentator can introduce his own hatred’s into his work. Where does it stop, can we now openly call Ferguson, Webb & Pulis cheats.

  14. The mainstream media reaction, aside from the revenue generating hyperlinks and headlines, appears to be firmly in the ‘any player would have done the same’ camp. Which is refreshing. This season alone we’ve witnessed the media attempting to label Luis as a cheat and a diver. All we have to do is look at the game at Goodison in October to see Suarez in a nutshell; he scores (via Baines), he plays the pantomime villain, he scores again, gets accused of cheating, we see their good old English stalwart of a captain get booked for diving (oh, the beautiful irony), and then we witness his winning goal. But hang on, the Everton players put their hands up in unison to con the ref and linesman that it was offside when they clearly knew it wasn’t. But that’s cheating, right?

    My first reaction was one of frustration yesterday – mainly at having to explain (yet again) to friends and colleagues that what we saw is the intent and the will to win at all odds of a player determined to see his side succeed. Thankfully it’s our team that Luis has that passion and determination for. He scored with his foot, incidentally, for those out there that have this belief that he scored with a touchdown/slam dunk finish.

    The irony yesterday was that Sturridge was taken off in part, as I see it, due to his booking. And what was that for exactly? A cynical attempt to get him booked by a Mansfield player, in my opinion. Could be seen as cheating couldn’t it? Expect we take it as part and parcel of the game. Like playing to the whistle, for example, and expecting the officials to pick up on the obvious.

    Two things (that was my best B-Rod impression there): Jon Champion crossed the line as a commentator with “that for me is the work of a cheat”. I’ve been struggling for years listening to him, but that was the final straw.

    The other point is that Mansfield Town deserve all the credit we can give them, and especially their manager, Paul Cox. He didn’t rise to the bait being offered by Ray Stubbs, instead he pointed out that any player would’ve done the same, and they’d have taken the goal at their end. They are a credit to football for the support they showed LFC before the game yesterday, and are welcome at Anfield any time.

  15. TartanBono

    Even if he owned up to handling the ball the goal would still stand as the ref/assistant didnt deem it deliberate…

    no media uproar when his perfectly legitimate goal against Everton was chopped off?!

    no media uproar when ‘crouchy’ had a little basketball dribble before scoring his goal against City (if i remember correctly)…

    all sound like jellousy to me… :)

    • and lets not forget Fergie’s buttplug Pulis telling the press how great it was that Crouch had got away with it.

    • This is so true. There are always people trying to look for something to condemn Luis. I could not care less about this kind of people.

  16. Bob Pierce

    To me, Suarez looked rather sheepish, as if he expected the goal to be disallowed. It was clearly an accident, he pulled his hand away as he made contact. Mr. Champion does know all about cheating, after all he has commentated on enough Premier league matches, when ever a corner is taken. some of the wrestling in the box would put the WWE to shame .
    Unfortunately yesterday was the moment the words slipped out of his mouth, much like Luis’ hand on the ball.

    • That was the way it looked to me, as well. The way he smashed the ball in the back of the net seemed to be more out of frustration in thinking the goal would be disallowed because he had accidentally handled the ball. Even his celebration after realizing the goal would stand seemed fairly subdued from what I recall.

  17. Does Champion have any evidence that Suarez is a cheat ? if not he would do better to shut his gob until he has

  18. The media obsession with Suarez as panto villain bores me to tears at this point. Gordon Strachan had a good comparison about people parking on double yellows last night on ITV’s knock-off MotD last night. He’s fast becoming my favourite ex-player pundit just by saying sensible things in an age when buffoons like Robbie “Macho Man” Savage and Dion Dublin actually get paid to analyse and discuss football.

    Also, is Exodus Geohaghon the greatest name of all time?

  19. “is Exodus Geohaghon the greatest name of all time?”


  20. Agree with the contributor earlier who praised the Mansfield manager for being so sensible about the whole thing. There are a hell of a lot of managers who could learn a little from his dignity and understanding in defeat. It must have hurt like hell, but he took it on the chin, so Fair Play to you Mr. Cox, and the very best of luck to your team and your new bride for 2013 mate.


  21. Just my two cents – he opens up his body by .raising his arm, in anticipation of a rebound, using his torso to control- thanks, Bart.

  22. The media are indulging in institutionalised xenophobia again and I, for one, am not indulging them in it.

  23. Glad you pointed out Linekar’s dives.

    Don’t think Mr Suarez would shift many packets of crisps in west africa either though!! Just ask the ppl of Ghana

  24. Let’s suppose for a moment he had owned up, picked the ball up out of the net walked over to the ref and said “no goal, it hit my hand”.

    Does anyone really think this would’ve featured on a single tabloid back page?…Would it even have received any meaningful press at all? I very much doubt it.

    Scandle and negativity is what sells tabloid newspapers because sadly that’s what people in our country want to hear and read. Having a reliable ticking time-bomb in Luis Suarez as the centre of all evil is simply a sheer delight for shameful journos who wouldn’t know a balanced piece of writing if they were force fed the pages one was written on.

  25. James Lawton, chief sports writer for the i newspaper compares Messi to Suarez with his usual bias. Of course he fails to mention Messi’s hand of god goal against Espanyol or his free kick cheating v Real Madrid, nor did he compare Suarez’s performances in International tournaments with those of ‘the supposed worlds best player’. Some sports writer!

  26. matthew street

    I seem to be the only person in the world to remember Dennis Wise’s only ever international goal for England at the Ataturk Stadium in Izmir vs Turkey in May 1991? A clear handball won the game for England in Euro 1992 qualifying – yet I NEVER hear it metioned. England won the group by 1 point over Ireland, therefore a good quiz question at your next pub quiz might be: “Before Thierry Henry, who was the last player to score a handball goal to knock Ireland out of a major international tournament?”

    At least the person who wrote this short biography remembers: “…Wise responded with the game’s only goal which he claimed for years went in off his head, even though it was clearly an unspotted handball.”

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