Team GB were victorious over Uruguay in the Olympic football tournament tonight, winning by a goal to nil. The main talking point on Twitter during the game seemed to be Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.
Every time the Uruguayan captain touched the ball, boos rang around the crowd. Aside from the ban he served for racially abusing Patrice Evra (despite no evidence that he did ever surfacing), there seems to be a widely held belief amongst football fans that Suarez is a cheat.
During the match tonight, the Liverpool striker was booked for a handball. When he protested his innocence, Mark Lawrenson chipped in with “I think the referee’s got a point”, even though Suarez was jostled to the ground and gained no advantage by handling the ball.
Whilst Suarez was penalised for (an admittedly slightly high) six handballs in the Premier League in 2011/12, that’s no more than Shane Long (also six), and less than Tim Cahill (seven) and Emmanuel Adebayor (ten).
Of course, his handball in the quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup hasn’t helped his reputation, but then what player wouldn’t do the same in an identical situation? (Indeed, as the first comment below the article shows, Asamoah Gyan, the player whose certain winning goal was denied by Suarez in the World Cup, has admitted he’d have done the same).
I’m sure had he been English and done that for the national team, he’d be praised to the rafters by fans and newspapers alike.
Tonight, he also received another accusation that is constantly thrown his way: that he’s a diver.
Whilst I can’t deny that he may exaggerate contact from time-to-time, and (according to this article in The Telegraph) he was booked once for diving last season, so were players from ten other top flight clubs, and current media favourite Gareth Bale was the only player to be booked twice for ‘simulation’ (or diving, to you and me).
The fact is that Luis Suarez was fouled more times (2.4) per game than any other player in the Premier League last season. He’s clearly targeted by opposition defenders because of the threat that he offers. You can’t dive your way to winning more fouls (pro-rata) than anyone else, it’s just not possible.
I’m not trying to claim he’s an angel, and if you’re not reading this as a Liverpool fan, then I realise I’m unlikely to change your mind about him. Just don’t pretend he’s worse than most footballers out there. He isn’t.
Statistics are for Premier League games only, and were sourced from EPLIndex and WhoScored. Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here. You can follow me on Twitter here.