By Christopher Boulay
For those who haven’t come to terms with it yet, let’s just get it out in the open: Luis Suarez is an infamous diver. He is his own worst enemy, and is already one of the most polarizing footballers of the past few years. He makes the problems he can’t control worse for himself.
It shouldn’t be this way.
Nearly every club in the Premier League possesses at least one player who favors simulation on occasion. (Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard are all equally accountable) But, it is the Uruguayan who has been singled-out and ostracized by lovers of the game.
Diving is a fact of life for fans today, whether they watch the Premier League, The Football Championship, La Liga or even Major League Soccer. Think about active, known divers in the world today. There are dozens in televised leagues, and that’s probably too low a number. Diving knows no boundaries, and it is significant enough of an issue that it could irreparably damage the game, itself. It may even be too late to prevent that. There is nothing glamorous about a team winning a free kick, a penalty or drawing a card for this behavior, but supporters of clubs the world over need to be aware that pointing fingers at specific players may not be the solution.
Suarez has seldom won fouls this season, as it is prevalent that referees throughout the league, League Cup and Europa League are immune to his cries. He’s been kicked, elbowed, stepped on and pushed. Nearly every way that a footballer can be the victim of violent conduct, the Uruguayan international has already experienced it in just a few short months.
Even manager Brendan Rodgers came out in Suarez’s defense through a statement on the official club website.
“At this moment there seems to be one set of rules for Luis and another set for everyone else,” said Rodgers.
Rodgers may be right. But, it wasn’t always like this. According to EPL Index and Opta, Suarez won the third-most fouls in the Premier League last season. His 74 fouls won was only third to Newcastle United’s Jonas Gutierrez (85) and former Wigan winger Victor Moses (78). So, what went wrong?
The dives from the Uruguayan forward have increased in their comical, and frankly ridiculous nature. In Premier League play this season, he has been booked three times for simulation. This is frustrating, as he isn’t getting the calls when he is fouled or even assaulted, but he is being chastised for making poor decisions to make up for the previous calls.
Even Stoke City manager Tony Pulis chimed in about Suarez’s tendency to dive after Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with the Potters.
“I’ve been on about and banging the drum about people who fall over,” Pulis told BBC Sport. “It’s an embarrassment. The FA should be looking at this. What happens is that he puts enormous pressure on the referee. Every time he goes down, you have got 40,000-odd Liverpool supporters getting after the referee and I don’t think that’s right. It is a tough enough job as it is.”
There is a lesson that Suarez must learn, and despite the inaction from the officials in each match, he has played a part in this mess. It isn’t going to get better until he does his due diligence to repair the situation.
First, the diving must stop. There is absolutely no way Suarez should expect to win fouls by simulation. By getting clattered on a regular basis without calls, he should already be aware of this point. Diving is rather cowardly, and there is just no place for it in this sport. He should expect to be carded every single time he simulates contact.
Second, Suarez needs to stop screaming to the referee each time he is tackled hard, clipped or knocked over. Waving one’s arms and begging for a call doesn’t work in this league. If it does, it doesn’t work for Suarez, and he must accept that. By constantly complaining on the pitch about being physically abused, he exacerbates the situation. Getting up, dusting himself off and trying to win matches for Liverpool is the only thing he should concentrate on.
Third, Suarez needs to finish playing until the whistle. If he is knocked around – even if he doesn’t go to ground or complain – he needs to stay involved. It has been too prevalent in recent matches where Liverpool is on the attack, the forward gets borderline fouled and he just stops out of frustration. This costs Liverpool scoring opportunities, and at this juncture, the Reds can’t afford giving up on opportunities to convert chances.
Suarez has suffered. The row with Patrice Evra will never leave him until he is in a place that is far, far away from the English media’s influence. It is certainly possible that the situation has stayed fresh in the minds of referees, along with their knowledge of his tendency toward simulation. No one will know, for sure until one of these refs puts out a best-selling autobiography years down the line that everyone seems to like so much. This has boiled over through the fact that he doesn’t get the calls needed. But, if this doesn’t change, Suarez could be one serious tackle away from a lengthy injury, or worse.
He already was stepped on by Robert Huth during the match against Stoke City, and now bares the battle wound on his chest from Huth’s spikes. There was no call and no retroactive action from the powers that be. Violent conduct is inexcusable, but it, like diving, is seemingly a part of the game. If Suarez does his part and straightens himself out, this maddening situation may start to be resolved. He can’t make opposing fans or referees like him, but he can make a better effort to go under the radar. If he does this, calls may go his way, and players who assault him on the pitch may start to get the discipline they deserve.
Suarez is an elite player, and one that is indispensable to this Liverpool squad. He is loved by the Anfield faithful, and rightly so. But, his issues start and end with him. He can only control what he does. It’s time for him to mature into the player Liverpool needs to lead the attack. The rest will fall into place, in due time.
Follow Chris Boulay on Twitter @chrismboulay