Luis Suarez And The Not So Beautiful Game

  • Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is back in a media storm after his controversial goal against non-league Mansfield Town. 

    His decisive strike in the FA Cup third round came with the help of a deflection off his arm.

    But should he be condemned for what happened in Sunday's match, and what does this incident say about football generally?

    ESPN commentator Jon Champion stated in his TV commentary at the time: "That, I'm afraid, is the work of a cheat,"

    However, after the game, Mansfield manager Paul Cox was more forgiving saying: "if the shoe was on the other foot then we would have taken it,"

    Incidents like this do happen in football week in week out at all levels of the game. Placed in a similar position as Suarez, most players, from a Sunday league team to the Premier League, are going to do the same - if they can get away with it. Unfortunately, that's the way football, and human nature, are today.

    Fifa's rules of football say that handling the ball involves a "deliberate" act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. Was there movement of Suarez's hand towards the ball? No one can say with certainty, it is not conclusive. This is why referee Andre Marriner allowed the goal. He judged it not deliberate. 

    Given Suarez's past indiscretions, including his infamous handball on the line against Ghana in the World Cup quarter-final of 2010, the controversy has been blown up out of all proportion. However, that said, there have been suggestions that Suarez should have fessed up to what occured.

    His failure to do so contrasts with another Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler. In 1997, in a match against Arsenal, Fowler pleaded with the referee not to give a penalty to Liverpool claiming Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman did not touch him when there was an incident in the penalty box. Fowler rightly won Uefa's Fair Play award that year for that rare gesture of sportsmanship.

    Sporting acts are common in other sports - but not football these days. Cricketers have been known to give up their wicket. It's not uncommon to see snooker players admit to fouls that referees haven't noticed. Tennis players will admit to suspect calls. 

    So did Suarez cheat and deliberately handle the ball? No. There was no conclusive, deliberate intent to handle the ball. The referee made a judgement, and even the Mansfield manager has admitted he would have accepted the goal if the ball was on the other hand. 

    Should Suarez have been more sporting and fessed up to the fact his hand played a significant role in helping the ball into the net? Yes, but it would be naive to think he would do so based on his character, natural instincts, and the ethics of football today. 

    In the money driven, cut throat world that is the beautiful game these days there seems little room for sportsmanship, and that is the real shame.