Luis Suarez first really came to my attention at the 2010 World Cup. Prior to then he was just another name to me, but his conduct during the Quarter Final fixture of Uruguay vs Ghana added character to that name for the first time. That character during the game was consistent with a lot of the stories and scandals around the man thereafter in his career, both at club and international level. The Shameless Striker; no player makes the papers quite like Luis Suarez.
The game itself was truly enthralling. Ghana, the only remaining African nation in the competition at this point, were the severe underdogs and everyone’s darling. Half the world was willing them to dump Uruguay on the way to the semis. Uruguay on the other hand had very much played the villain of the tournament. After two outstanding goals made it 1-1 in 90 minutes, in extra-time the Ghanaians at the death curled a free-kick into the box. Two final shots and a header were all blocked on the line, before the ball was collected by Muslera the keeper. The last chance for heroics was gone. Half a billion hearts around the world sank.
But the whistle blew immediately and the ref signalled for a penalty. The red card came out for Luis Suarez. In all the excitement, none of us had seen him casually stood on the goal line beating the ball away with his arms. The plucky Ghanaian underdogs had one last chance to win it with a single penalty. Asamoah Gyan stepped up and ploughed it into the overhead crossbar. Those half billion hearts sank again. Uruguay went on to win the game 4-2 in penalties. But the fascinating moment was Suarez’s reaction on the touchline the moment the original penalty had missed. Absolute glee. No remorse.
His decision was entirely clinical. He recognised the foul and judged the punishment of 1 fewer men for the game’s short remaining length and subsequent match ban as one worth taking for the sake of his country. He was willing to cheat to win. It worked. Uruguay progressed in the tournament. This is exactly what I refer to as “The Suarez Factor”. Would you not be willing to be the fall guy for your club, country or city, when the stakes are so high?
Imagine you were a sports manager. You want a team of players that are completely driven toward victory. The professionals you hire should be willing to win at all costs. You want each individual to go for any advantage possible. Anyone not doing so does not belong in your team, simple as. That attitude of taking any advantage possible extends to using ingenuity, creativity and intellect to interpret the rule book slightly differently to make gain. And occasionally, you step over the line to break a rule because, again, the punishment does not always fit the crime. This characteristic is absolutely admirable, because it shows intelligence, selflessness and commitment. Accepting punishment for the benefit of the team. If I were a manager, I would privately (not publicly) want my players to do whatever it takes to get me that victory in spite of themselves.
The history books won’t remember a gallant loser. Your fans will forgive rule bending if they become champions. Cheating can be worth it. Luis Suarez knows this. Fortunately he has the talent to back up the intellect. But when it comes down to the wire, as an employer, you know he will give you absolutely everything you need to bring that trophy home.
We know we don’t usually write about the players themselves, before anyone makes that claim. This post is about the notion of pushing the boundaries of cheating as one to be admired, which is a question of politics.