"I made the save of the tournament... the Hand of God now belongs to me"

Luis Suarez is an international footballer most, if not all, football fans around the world will have heard of, whether it is for good or bad reasons. Luis Suarez’s integrity as a footballer has come into question recently after a series of controversies the Uruguayan forward has been involved in. Suarez has often been labelled a ‘cheat’ or a ‘villain’ by the media and sporting personalities. Liverpool and Suarez supporters have recently laid claims that Luis is being victimised by the media when having been accused of diving on more than one occasion.

Just who is calling him a cheat?

The most notable people to have called Luis Suarez a cheat are:

  •          Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal defender
  •          Tony Pulis, Stoke City manager
  •          Jim Boyce, FIFA Vice President
  •          Milovan Rajevac, Ghana national team manager for 2010 World Cup

So just why is Luis Suarez’s integrity being questioned?

2nd July 2010, World Cup Quarter Final, Soccer City, Johannesburg

In the second quarter final of the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay and Ghana were tied at 1-1 after extra with penalties looming. Ghana were on the attack in the last minute when Dominic Adiyiah sent a header goal-bound. There were two Uruguayans on the line and one of them, Luis Suarez, proceeded to pat the ball away with his hands.

This handball denied Ghana the goal and, given that the game was in the dying seconds, a place in the semi finals – becoming the first African team to do so. Suarez was shown the red card and Ghana given a penalty, but it was the actions of the Uruguayan that followed which are still imprinted in the back of every football fan who witnessed it.

Luis Suarez could have taken his medicine and walked off without complaint, straight down the tunnel. However, he decided to wait by the entrance of the tunnel to watch the penalty being taken. The penalty was missed and Suarez was seen celebrating the miss as if it had been a winning goal scored by his team.

By extension, this could have been viewed as him celebrating getting away with cheating. As all witnesses know, Uruguay went on to win the game 4-2 on penalties and Suarez was treated as a hero.

After the game, Suarez was reported to have said, “I made the save of the tournament,” then claiming that his handball was the new ‘Hand of God’.

20th November 2010, Eredivisie League Match, Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam

Fast forward just under five months and we come to Suarez’s next controversial moment. In the Eredivisie match between Ajax and PSV Eindhoven, Luis Suarez was seen biting PSV midfielder Otman Bakkal on the shoulder in retaliation after reportedly having his foot stood on.

Suarez was initially banned for two games and fined an undisclosed amount by Ajax, and the ban was later increased to seven games by the Dutch FA. This bite did not help his already tarnished reputation after the handball against Ghana.

15th October 2011, English Premier League, Anfield, Liverpool

In the winter of 2010/11 Suarez signed for Liverpool and in autumn of 2011 controversy struck the Uruguayan yet again. During his team’s 1-1 draw with rivals Manchester United, Suarez was reported to have racially abused Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra. Luis Suarez later denied having used racist language towards the Frenchman however did admit to using the word “negro”, although not in a racial way.

During a seven-day hearing about the matter, Suarez pleaded innocent but was found guilty by the FA and was handed an eight-match ban as well as a £40,000 fine for the racial abuse of Patrice Evra.

Diving

On countless occasions during his Premier League career, Luis Suarez has been accused of going down too easily, or “diving”, by the media, players and managers. This has led to Suarez not getting decisions go his way when he is downed by an opposition player. It has also led to him to be scrutinised by past players on football highlight shows.

Most recently his antics against Stoke City had caused Stoke City manager to reiterate his want to have players banned for diving. During the game Suarez was seen to have gone down without contact in the box, and was also the victim of a stamp from Robert Huth that went unnoticed possibly because of Suarez’s reputation.

Are Liverpool fans right to say Suarez is victimised?

Diving in football

Diving is now, unfortunately, a big part of football across all levels – whether it be in the Premier League or a game between friends in the park. But before anyone is accused of diving, one needs to ask: What is a dive?

            Diving (football): an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed.

This definition shows that in order for a fall to be classed as a dive, feigning injury plays a huge part. If a player were to fall over when close to a player, but get straight back up the referee should be able to tell that the player has not dived, as no injury is feigned.

It is also reported that the player’s body movements are key for the referees to spot whether the fall is genuine or a dive. If a player takes up the “Archer’s bow” pose, where the head is tilted back, chest pushed forward, arms raised and legs bent there’s a high probability that they have dived, as this is a measure to prevent them getting hurt.

As Suarez is usually seen taking a “theatrical” tumble and appeals for a foul, it can be understood that referees mistake this for a dive even if the claim is genuine.

British players

However, it is known that, in terms of the media, when a British player dives it is overlooked. A prime example of this is when a Premier League highlights show showed a Suarez dive and a dive from Welshman Gareth Bale.

When discussing the Suarez dive, the pundits mentioned how it was not right for him to have dived and how he should be ashamed. Yet when it came to the Gareth Bale dive, they noted how it was laughable and that “you’ve got to laugh”. This does show that the media are more lenient with diving when it comes to British players.

Is he?

The British players bias shows that to some extent Luis Suarez is victimised, but he only really has himself to blame. His reputation precedes him due to the big controversies that go hand-in-hand with the name Luis Suarez. 

What can Suarez do, to lower the victimisation?

If Suarez were to put more effort into staying on his feet then there is a chance that the media will start to “pick” on him less. A good example of this is with former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

In his first season-and-a-half with the London club, Drogba came under scrutiny from both the press and Chelsea fans for his inability to stay on his feet. Drogba reacted positively to this bad press and went on to become a Chelsea legend for helping them win arguably the biggest game in their history – the Champions League final.

If Suarez goes the same way as Drogba, he can emulate himself as a Liverpool player and could go down as a Liverpool great if him staying on his feet helps them to become the superpower they once were.