Not much time today because of a plethora of things to do from now until way beyond sundown.

So I’ll just pop a quota photo onto the blog. Like this:

Yep. Ghana may also have ducked out of the World Cup last night, but it was delicious to see them “only” lose 2-0 to Uruguay, meaning that Luis Suarez and the South Americans are also headed home. Delicious, because you may remember that Suarez incident against Ghana at Soccer City in 2010.

To be fair, I wrote this back then:

Quite what people expected you to do when faced with opposition football teams in an international football tournament escapes me. 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.

…and I stand by that, because you’re there to win. But that doesn’t mean that it was the right thing to do.

It’s not nice to revel in other people’s misfortune, but in this case…? Well, since 2010, Luis Suarez has been involved in biting incident(s), racist incident(s) and clearly stands out as one of the whiniest, diviest, nastiest players to ever “grace” the beautiful game.

So yes, last night was actually rather enjoyable.

UPDATE: Incoming from The Guru, further evidence of what a genuinely pleasant bunch of lads the Uruguayan team really are.
Here’s Frederico Valverde taunting the ref(!) after Ghana missed that first half penalty. Ugh.


To cheat or not to cheat?

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.

BREAKING: FIFA announce Suarez ban

NOTE: There’s a more serious take on the calls for a lifetime ban for Suarez here.

But first, read my scoop on FIFA’s report on the Luis Suarez incident:

In an effort to limit the damage done to the otherwise shining reputation of football, FIFA instructed its Disciplinary Committee to move fast in considering and announcing the punishment to be given to Uruguay striker Luis Suarez after the apparent biting incident in the game against Italy on Tuesday.
This order seems to have come from the very top, where Sepp Blatter took time out of his busy schedule to begin throwing stones in his predominantly windowed mansion overlooking Rio de Janeiro to hurry things along. Unsurprisingly, given the gravity of the situation, the outrage across social media worldwide and the necessity to be seen to be doing… well… something, it appears that the footballing body has come down hard on Mr Suarez.

Herewith the important bits of their statement.

We have reviewed the video footage of the latter stages of the Uruguay versus Italy game on Tuesday in Natal, specifically the apparent bite by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez on the left shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. In considering any disciplinary action (and the severity of that action), we have taken several factors into account, these being:

  • The injury suffered by Mr Chiellini and the effect on his future ability to play football.
  • The damage this causes to the image of football worldwide.
  • The baying for blood of the ‘pitchfork mafia’ lynch mob on twitter and uninformed people in the USA generally.
  • The fact that once, in the 1994 World Cup, we banned an Italian player for 8 whole games after he deliberately smashed an opponent in the face with his elbow, breaking his nose, leaving him concussed and meaning that he lost over a pint of blood on the pitch; a punishment which gives precedent and a benchmark to this committee’s decision.

We would like to make the following points regarding this incident:

  • Firstly, this was a wholly unjustified, unwarranted and heinous act. There can be no excuses for biting an opponent during a game of football. I know it’s fairly commonplace in rugby, but this isn’t egg-chasing, is it?
  • Secondly, due to this incident, Mr Chiellini’s career is at an end. He will never be able to play football agai… what?… he did? Oh, apparently, he was able to get back up and play on immediately, but surely only once he’d mopped up all the blood off his shir… sorry? …no blood? oh… right.
    Anyway, the mental scars and the slight, rosy dimples on his shoulder will possibly haunt him forever. At least he can get them treated promptly and locally as he arrives back home in Italy with the rest of their squad later today.
  • Thirdly, we’ve had loads of correspondence from well-informed fans around the world, on Twitter and then on Facebook when they caught up with the news today, telling us that we must ban Mr Suarez from football for a season, two seasons, two years, and/or forever. We’ve also had a lot of people telling us that Qatar is a really stupid place to hold the 2022 World Cup, but we chose not to listen to them.

Herewith the sanctions imposed by the Disciplinary Committee:

“Qatar: it’s a great place to be. (Unless you’re a migrant worker trapped in a poorly-paying,
dangerous job and your passport has been taken by your employer.)”

  • Luis Suarez will be banned foreverever. And ever. Seriaas. He will never be allowed to play football again in any professional capacity. Or any unprofessional capacity. Neva, baas! It’s over!
    Nothing less than this will placate the baying hordes, and we need to placate them so that they continue to supply us with viewership and advertising revenue.

But wait… there’s more.

  • Luis Suarez will also not be allowed to watch any football and must wear a blindfold whenever he finds himself in any situation where he might reasonably expect to see a football. Except while driving.
    No. Wait. Even while driving. All the time. All of it.
  • Luis Suarez’s family (including, but not limited to his mother, father, wife, sons, daughters, in-laws, uncles, aunties, cousins, second cousins, neighbours, real friends, facebook friends, plumbers, doctors, the sales assistant in Next in Liverpool who sold him that jumper, gardener and the air conditioning maintenance engineers who worked on his house during or before the time he purchased the property) will also be banned from playing football and – just in case – tennis and possibly golf, as well.
  • Luis Suarez’s cat to be declawed.
  • Anyone with the initials “LS” will also be banned from playing football. We have also received several requests from England fans to extend this ban to anyone with the initials “WR”, too. We are happy to do this.
  • Finally, the Uruguayan Football Association must pay for immediate dental work on their entire squad, so that they no longer pose an oral threat to opposition players. This work must be carried out before the 2-0 defeat that Mr Chen has arranged against Colombia on Saturday.

We believe that these sanctions, though harsh, are completely reasonable, especially when put into context. After all, we gave Zinedine Zidane a three game ban for his 2006 headbutt, Nigel De Jong got a whole yellow card for his chest-high, studs-up, karate-style lunge at Xabi Alonso in the 2010 final and we did absolutely fuck all about Diego Maradona’s 1986 ‘hand of god’ goal.

So a lifetime ban for everyone and everything seems completely reasonable here. It’ll make us ever so popular, too.
And it’ll take the heat off (LOLZ, no pun intended) that dodgy Qatar decision for a while.

That concludes this press conference. Sorry, we don’t have time for any awkward questions.

A remarkable idea

Football’s name is once again being dragged through the mud by allegedly overpaid stars allegedly flinging themselves into the… er… mud in the hope of gaining some advantage like a free-kick or penalty. This is clearly cheating, but no-one is doing anything about it, just like no-one did anything about Lance Armstrong, or, in an only tenuously linked analogy, Sir Jimmy Savile.

Of course, the majority of the noise is around everyone’s favourite villain, Luis Suarez (whose fantastic 2010 goalline stop I commented on thus:)

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.

however, we shouldn’t leave Gareth “Butter Wouldn’t Melt” Bale out of this discussion, because he cheated last weekend too.

James Lawton of The Independent doesn’t leave Bale out, and makes the point:

Diving is such an implicit part of football now that it takes something quite remarkable to draw special attention and what Bale and Suarez did on Sunday took us well beyond the realms of self-parody.

But the laughter freezes, surely, when you consider how such actions now come in an unbroken stream, and how much damage they are causing to the integrity of the business which pays such huge rewards to “professionals” to whom you like to think some basic responsibilities have been entrusted.

But what’s to be done about it? Well, here’s an enlightened idea which I found on a blog post from about 18 months ago

Football needs to keep up with modern technology. FIFA’s refusal to institute goal line technology is ridiculous and has ruined many a game. Now they need to allow the reviewing of video evidence after the game for players diving and then suspend them.

Now, suddenly, that idea seems to have caught on (presumably after the FIFA hierarchy read the blog post in question):

FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce has joined calls for players who dive to be punished retrospectively and claimed simulation is becoming a cancer within the game.

“I believe if it is clear to everyone that it is simulation then that person is trying to cheat and they should be severely punished for that. It can be dealt with retrospectively by disciplinary committees, and it is done so in some associations, and I believe that is the correct thing to do.”

So, what are the FA doing about it? Well, they are reviewing and discussing it often.

“Simulation is not something that the FA currently take retrospective action over but it is an issue that is often reviewed and discussed by the game’s stakeholders.”

Well guys, since that’s obviously not really working, how about less talk and a little more action?
Give it a go. You don’t even have to give me the credit.

Just make the beautiful game a little bit more beautiful again please.

Note: Post written ahead of the international matches on Friday evening, so if anything relevant to this issue happened in them, it probably won’t appear here for simple chronological reasons. 

Dear Uruguay

Dear Uruguay,

As an honourary South African, may I first apologise for the huge amount of anti-Uruguayan sentiment that has been demonstrated amongst the locals here since Luis Suarez’s last-gasp handball against Ghana. Labeling the whole team as “cheats”, “scum” and “cheating scum” due to the instinctive actions of one player is rather foolish and unnecessary in my humble opinion. Equally as bad are the appalling and unamusing puns around the name of your country: “Ur-a-gay” and “Ur-a-gone”, which of course, you’re not, although last night’s defeat means that you will be exiled to Port Elizabeth for the weekend. I’m sorry about that too.

The popular perception amongst the nouveau riche of footballing knowledge (and by nouveau, I mean “I’ve learnt everything there is to know about soccer in the last 4 weeks”) seems to be that Suarez was at fault for Ghana’s exit. However, this is surely only the view of those who watched that game through African tinted spectacles. When viewed through neutral eyes, Ghana’s defeat was actually due to the fact that they couldn’t score any goals – especially from the penalty spot.
I’ve done some rudimentary calculations and it appears that statistically speaking, 85% of penalties are scored. In that quarter final, Ghana managed to pop a whole 40% in. Quite how that pitiful inaccuracy has been twisted and turned into apparently being Mr Suarez’s fault is somewhat beyond me.

The cheating allegations continue. That your players dive in order to get fouls. Like dear Luis again, for example, when SA goalie Itumeleng Khune tripped him up. Although, in fairness, that one was because he was tripped up by Itumeleng Khune, rather than because he dived.
But anyway: diving. It’s ugly and I dislike it.  We all do. Uruguay are, of course, the only nation whose players do this. Well, apart from Arjen Robben and Robin van Pear-See of Holland. And Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. So Uruguay, Holland and Portugal, then. And maybe Fernando Torres a bit as well. So add Spain too.
(We’d probably include France, but they weren’t really here long enough for anyone to notice.)
But Uruguay are definitely the biggest cheats at diving, because South African fans say so (while conveniently ignoring Teko Modise’s pathetic 3m springboard antics).

And talking of Teko, we can also add to this growing list of reasons that we hate each and every one of the 3,500,000 inhabitants of your country so very much, the fact that you effectively ended Bafana Bafana’s dreams of World Cup glory by comprehensively outplaying them and scoring three more goals that they did in Pretoria on the 16th. How dare you?
Of course, that’s what you came here for – to win as many games as possible.
But against the host nation? Don’t you study history at all?
Do you not recall how Germany declared war on Italy after their semi-final defeat in 2006? How Japan refused several shipments of rose-flavoured candy after Turkey knocked them out in 2002? Or how France didn’t actually take any action whatsoever after they weren’t beaten on home soil in ’98?
No Uruguay. You got lucky when South Africa just decided not to like you very much after that 3-0 drubbing in Tshwane. We could have gone a lot further, like giving your kids vuvuzelas.
(Note to parents: Just. Don’t.)

And then there’s the personal insults. Mainly about Diego Forlan’s hair. Obviously, none of the other players playing in the World Cup here have silly hair (Siphiwe Tshabalala) (cough) so this makes Diego a prime target. This is exacerbated by his annoying habit of scoring really good goals. Siphiwe only struggled with that goalscoring issue rather briefly way back when.

All in all, it’s clear to see why some South Africans have suddenly discovered this hatred from all things Uruguayan. The spirit of Ubuntu only goes so far and the bottle had obviously run dry by the time we got down to U in the alphabet. Wait til you see what they  have in store of the Zimbabweans next week – a bit of booing and some hairstyle abuse is going to seem like a game against Bafana… er… I mean like a walk in the park compared with what they’re going to get.

All in all, I think you were hard done by. Quite what people expected you to do when faced with opposition football teams in an international football tournament escapes me. 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.
That’s just part and parcel of football. And that’s probably why so many people here just don’t get it.

UPDATE: Some more posts on this, from Jacques Rousseau and Jeremy Nell.

UPDATE 2: More – Incoming from Jacques:
From a good football blog I’ve just discovered:

Then, Ghana. This is my sixth World Cup, and I have watched a lot of football over the last 20 years. (Time I’ll never get back, Isuppose.) And I’ve never seen an ending weirder, more arbitrary and more cruel than the freakshow of missed penalties and evil-doing rewarded that brought the Black Stars’ inspirational, continent-uniting underdog run to an end. I loved it.
See, Ghana distinguished itself by becoming the only African team that knows how to get a result, come what may. Dating back (at least) to their cold-blooded 2006 elimination of the United States, they’ve always been willing to do the business. Dive in the box? Waste a little time with a fake injury? Why not? It’s a Man’s Game, after all.
Football’s message to Ghana: “Oh, you think you’re hardboiled? Meet Luis Suarez’s hand!” I’ve been wracking my brain for a Hand-of-God-style sobriquet for Suarez’s last-second “save”—someone will get there, I’m quite sure—but in the end, it was just the kind of bizarre intervention that twists history one way and not another. Plan all you want, and you cannot plan for Suarez’s hand.
Sorry, Black Stars—but you had 120 minutes to win it, and you didn’t, so fare thee well.

He’s right, you know?