By Justin Fitzgerald
Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and may not actually even be the right thing to do anymore, depending on the timing and unintended consequences. I’m talking of course, about Luis Suarez’s recent admission of simulation in a match against Stoke City earlier this year. I know what you’re thinking, “Suarez dove?!” You don’t say… Also the Earth is round, water is wet, and Sir Alex Ferguson often has choice words for any referee whose name doesn’t rhyme with ‘Schmoward Schmeb.’
Luis Suarez is one of those players that you love to have on your team, but would literally hate if they played anywhere else. Players like Kevin Garnet with the Celtics or Brad Marchand with the Bruins, fierce competitors who aren’t afraid to do whatever it takes to win. Suarez recently told Fox Sports Argentina, “I don’t listen all the nonsense some people say about me. I’m accused of cheating here. People say I throw myself all the time inside the box. Let’s see: they said that when we played against Stoke, for instance, and in that case they were right. I invented a foul because we were drawing 1-1 against Stoke and I wanted to win.”
Win at all costs, a mentality that can’t be taught which Luis Suarez has in abundance. Unfortunately for the Uruguayan, his dogged determination and fierce competiveness have led to multiple altercations on the field. Whether it be an intentional handball that knocked the Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup, biting the shoulder of Otman Bakkal in a match between PSV and Ajax, being at the center of a racial incident involving Patrice Evra, or instinctively handling the ball again to score against Mansfield Town in an FA Cup third round match, controversy seems to follow Luis Suarez. I mean can you honestly imagine pissing off an entire continent (Africa) and then having the audacity to tell the BBC, “Mine is the real ‘Hand of God.’ I made the save of the tournament.”
With Suarez it seems to go beyond not having a filter or thinking about the consequences and repercussions of his actions. Liverpool’s No. 7 seems to thrive on controversy, making sure the press always has something to go on. The average professional footballer might feel intimidated to have an entire stadium chanting ‘You know what you are’ in unison against them but not Luis, he knows who he is and he doesn’t care.
What he should care about is the uncomfortable position he left his manager in following the comments on simulating a foul against Stoke. Brendan Rodgers responded at a press conference recently saying, “I’ve seen the comments late last night and this morning and I think it’s wrong.”Certainly from our perspective it is unacceptable. It will be dealt with internally so there are no issues there. It’s [diving] not something we advocate here.”
Apparently confessing your sins to the Argentinian press doesn’t actually lead to absolution, so don’t expect Gareth Bale and Ashley Young to confirm that it actually was a strong breeze that sent them to the ground more often than not. At the end of the day, Suarez has put himself and the club further under the microscope, and validated one of the negative connotations that plague modern football. Simulation, or “taking a dive,” has become part of the beautiful game whether we like it or not and unfortunately looks like it will be here for the foreseeable future. That being said, don’t expect Luis Suarez to draw a penalty any time soon. I’m convinced that nothing short of a Mortal Kombat Fatality on the Uruguayan will even be worthy of a spot foul for the time being.
I’m afraid it might be safe to assume that a lack of fouls in general will be a plague on the rest of his campaign, an unfortunate repercussion of admitting to simulation since I’m inclined to believe that Suarez does actually draw contact more often than not, his style of play warrants it. Suarez is the best in the game at lulling defenders into a false sense of security by attacking along the touchline and pulling the ball on a string through impossible angles. He’s been in fantastic form this season and there’s almost no one I’d rather have up front in a red shirt. Below is a side by side comparison of his scoring stats from 12/12 – 12/13 courtesy of @EPLIndex.
Luis Suarez 2012 stats on the left – 2013 on the right.
Say what you will about his past transgressions, one encouraging theme is that they have almost all occurred on the field, not in the locker room or out on the town. In a recent interview with The Liverpool ECHO Steven Gerrard had this to say about Suarez, “He is a family man: every time you ask him what he is doing he is with his family. When he comes onto the pitch he turns into a fighter, he turns into a winner. I’d go as far as to say he’s probably the best player I’ve played with, which is some accolade considering the players I’ve played with – some fantastic players. I’ve played with world-class players – Fernando Torres, Jamie Carragher, Gary McAllister – but Luis Suarez is probably top of that pile.” So let him play the role of the villain. The media needs players like Suarez so they can point their fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.”
Make way for the bad guy…