Joe Strange - Suarez proved footballers do have brains
Published: 06 Jul 2010 - 13:02:20
It's the debate that's been raging for the last four days - is Uruguay's Luis Suarez a hero or a villain?
For those of you that have been living underneath a rock since Uruguay met Ghana on Friday evening, the Ajax front-man deliberately handled the ball on his own goal-line to deny the Africans what would have been a quarter-final-winning goal.
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Instead Suarez saw red, Ghana missed the resulting penalty and Uruguay went on to win 4-2 in the shootout.
While many have condemned Suarez for his 'unsportsmanlike' conduct, I can't help but think that the identity of his victim is to blame for some of the ultra-negative reaction we've seen so far.
As the last team from the host continent left in the competition, Ghana were a source of inspiration to millions of African and neutral fans throughout the world. And while it's completely understandable that those supporters feel aggrieved after seeing their adopted side crash out at the last eight stage, the apparent injustice responsible for Ghana's demise seems to have hit hard among many.
Yes penalties are a horrible way to exit any competition, but there shouldn't be any emphasis on Suarez or what he conspired to do with just a few seconds of extra-time remaining.
The football purists among us will say that he should have let the ball into the net instead of using his hands, but what about the millions of people back in his homeland praying for a Uruguay victory? Should he have let his own country down just to preserve the merit of fair play?
Of course not.
In the split second he had between the ball connecting with Dominic Adiyiah's head and his own hand, Suarez was forced to make a calculated decision. Let the ball go in and have a matter of seconds to equalise before the referee blows for the end of extra-time, or stop the ball, get sent-off and hope Ghana miss the penalty.
He knew the rules and knew there was risk involved. But he also knew that if he had let the ball go past him then he and his team-mates would be heading home trophy-less.
The chances of Uruguay lifting their third ever World Cup are still slim, especially with Suarez now banned for their semi-final clash against the Netherlands this evening.
But one thing is for sure, their chances are a lot better now than if Suarez had let that Ghanaian header fly into the back of the net.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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