Thursday, April 18, 2024

Too soft on Suarez


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JOHANNESBURG – Yet again, blatant cynical cheating in football is not being adequately punished.Uruguay forward Luis Suarez escaped with a one-match suspension from FIFA yesterday for deliberately using his hands to slap away what would have been a dead-cert match-winning goal for Ghana.So he’ll miss the semi-final. Suarez will be back, suspension served, for the final or the third-place match, depending on how Uruguay fare.That is so wrong. FIFA should have sent him packing from the World Cup, and strive to deter cheats – it couldn’t be any simpler. The most basic rule is no handling by anyone other than the goalkeeper, and Suarez slapped it in the face.FIFA can draw up as many fair play codes as it likes, they will remain dead letters as long as cheats are allowed to prosper.Referee Olegario Benquerenca did his job in showing Suarez the red card. FIFA should have done its duty by suspending Suarez for Uruguay’s last two games.“Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure,” says FIFA’s fair play code. But that is not true. Suarez will still have the pleasure of playing another World Cup match – a pleasure he stole from Ghana’s players.Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez’s assertion that Suarez’s action was a natural reflex is codswallop.Suarez knew what he was doing. He took a calculated risk. The teams were tied at 1-1. It was the last minute of the match. Dominic Adiyiah’s header was goal-bound for Ghana. So Suarez lifted both arms and pushed it away. He didn’t even try to use his head or chest. He knew that the punishment for handling would be a penalty for Ghana. But that had to be better for Uruguay than losing to a last-gasp goal.And the gamble paid off when Ghana’s penalty-taker Asamoah Gyan thumped the crossbar with his shot. Suarez pumped his fists in celebration.“I think I made the best save of the World Cup,” he said afterward, tickled pink with himself.It would be wrong, in the wake of Suarez’s dishonesty to push FIFA for changes to the laws of the game so that referees could award goals that are illegally and deliberately blocked, even if they don’t cross the line. Basketball awards points for such eventualities, punishing teams for swatting away a ball that is already on its way in.Asking similar of football referees is not the answer.A better solution is deterrence. Come down harder on cheats. Ruin the rest of Suarez’s World Cup like he ruined it for the Ghanaians and the millions of Africans who thought Adiyiah’s header was about to carry them to the first semi-final for an African team.Suarez said being sent off “was worth it”.FIFA could have proved him wrong. Instead, it proved him right. (AP)


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