I’ve written before about Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s star forward. He is, in my opinion, the best player in the English Premier League this year, and arguably one of the best 11 players in the world. He is also, in my opinion (and by consensus, I believe) the biggest cheat in the EPL.
It’s an unusual combination. Fowards of Suarez’s quality may “dive” to draw fouls (see Cristiano Ronaldo). They may use their hand to affect the outcome of a soccer match (see Diego Maradona). But it’s rare to see a superstar forward engage in the vicious fouling that has become a Suarez trademark.
Both qualities — the sublime skill and the viciousness — were on full display during today’s match between Liverpool and Chelsea. Early in the second half, with Chelsea ahead 1-0, Suarez’s fine pass set up Daniel Sturridge for the tying goal.
But five minutes later, Suarez the cheat came to the fore. On a Chelsea corner kick, he raised his arm as an extension of his head to improve his chances of winning the “header.” The ball struck his arm, and the referee spotted it. The resulting penalty kick restored Chelsea’s lead.
Not long after that, Suarez committed a more egregious violation in front of the Chelsea goal. Tangled up with defender Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez bit the Chelsea player’s arm.
The referee, understandably, missed the bite. But Suarez has confessed to it. He had little choice given that the cameras captured it.
The score was still 2-1 when the 90 minutes were up, but the referee called for six minutes of extra play (an unusually long period) due to “stoppage time.” Chelsea still led after the six minutes, but the ref prolonged the match by more than 30 additional seconds.
In the 34th of those extra seconds, Suarez headed home a Sturridge cross to salvage a draw for Liverpool. Thus, the tying goal was scored after the final whistle should have been blown, by a player who should have been sent off for biting. To be fair, though, Liverpool’s overall play certainly was worthy of a draw.
As for Suarez, he clearly should be banned for the remainder of the season (five games). Indeed, a longer ban is warranted.
Just three years ago, when Suarez played in Holland for Ajax of Amsterdam, he received a seven-game ban for biting an opponent — an incident that led Dutch fans to label him “The Cannibal of Ajax.” And he has already been banned by the EPL for eight games for directing a racial insult at a Manchester United player. Thus, in addition to being a cheat, Suarez may also be a racist.
In any case, another lengthy ban surely is in order, and Liverpool may want to think about whether Suarez should continue to represent the club at all. As its managing director, Ian Ayre, said today, Suarez’s action is “not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt.” Or any other footballing shirt, for that matter.