That is the question.
And it’s actually tougher to answer than you might think.
Luis Suárez is, once again, the centre of attention for his last minute antics in a big football match. Luis rose to international prominence with his goalline handball at Soccer City which effectively knocked Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup. And, though I hate to say it now, I defended him over that (although it was mainly just to pass contrary comment on the stupid people on social media).
Forr me, that handball was an instinctive thing – he was on the line, the ball flew at him, instant self-preservation and desperation set in. Four years of preparation, of blood, sweat, tears and hard work came down to that split second:
I would have stopped that shot with my hand if I’d have been on the line that night. So would David Beckham, so would Lionel Messi, neither would Robert Green.
He might have been a thoroughly despicable, cheating, nasty piece of work, but I maintain that that infamous handball was involuntary.
But then… the biting, the diving, the racism, the diving, the biting and the diving since then?
Less involuntary. More considered. Calculated. Controlled.
The 90th minute dive which won the penalty which assisted Barcelona through at the Nou Camp was disgraceful. It’s difficult not to look at any incident involving Luis Suárez without cheat-tinted spectacles, but even setting aside any dislike for him and his team of UEFA’s darlings, Wednesday evening may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Suárez’ collar bone did survive though, despite the obvious agony as he fell to the floor having not been karate chopped across the neck.)
Anyway, the main reason for this post is to share one of the excellent newspaper articles and soundbites that this has generated. Silver linings – sometimes you’ve just got to try and find them.
Step forward, then Ewan Murray in the Guardian:
Once again the cottage industry that is the lauding of all things La Liga, and Barcelona in particular, belies what appear to be dark arts. The Barça brand matters more than what should always be established codes of football conduct. Pundits fawn, laughably in respect of former footballers who would rightly be incandescent had they suffered at the hands of Barça’s routinely wobbly forwards.
If the awarding of Barcelona’s first penalty of the night was dubious, Thomas Meunier committing the apparently fatal sin of falling over with Neymar in close proximity, the hosts’ second, which fuelled the fairytale, represented a blatant act of cheating.
Ewan pulls no punches, voicing opinions which many of us have been harbouring for some time now.
If you watch back through the dying stages, Barça’s players are throwing themselves to the floor with such desperation it is comical. The not-so- subtle message, as witnessed by millions including impressionable young footballers? When in doubt, when things get seriously tough, keep the conning of officials at the forefront of your mind. The ruse is even more effective when a team are at home, in such an intense atmosphere as the Camp Nou.
Preach, Ewan! Preach!
Please, can the thing that comes of this be the fast forwarding of video-assistants for the referees. The pathetic extra official on the goal line experiment has had virtually zero positive effect and needs to be scrapped in favour of a rugby-style TMO. Of course, if this were the case, Suárez would be off (having been booked for diving earlier in the game) and Barca would be out. Maybe that sort of thing is why technology hasn’t been introduced. Convenient human error being a great way to ensure your pet team continue to prevail.
But I’m sounding bitter and cynical now (albeit with good reason).
Suárez will go on Suárezing for just as long as he is allowed to do so.
The FA used post-match video evidence to look back at incidents in the ManU v Bournemouth game and Tyrone Mings and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were rightly handed bans for breaking the rules.
What sanction then for Luis and Barca? (spoiler: it’s none)
Now [FIFA] need to allow the reviewing of video evidence after the game for players diving and then suspend them.
Either that or maybe make some more big bucks by researching, developing and marketing whatever it is that allows players like Pedro and Javier Mascherano to miraculously recover and get on with the game 5 seconds after what appears to be a career-threatening injury.
Hmm. It’s (still) time to drag football’s governing body, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.