If you believe what the papers say, and what is currently being bounded around on social media websites, Luis Suarez is a low-life cheat, who has no place in football and should enter the trials for Uruguayan Olympic diving team, as he’s a shoe-in for Rio 2016. I’ve even heard non-Liverpool supporters quite vocally question his parentage. The thing is, Suarez is not the first, and sure well will not be last player either who ‘goes to ground’ so easily – he’s just become so blatant at this level of gamesmanship, it’s become his own personal trademark. I dread to think what would have happened if he’d dropped to the turf in the Forest penalty area when Brian ‘pugilist’ Clough was in charge of the East Midlands club. Currently though, I’m more concerned over what our Latin friend will get up to come the summer, when England face his nation in the World Cup. Nobody dare breathe in our area when Uruguay attack, let alone cough or sneeze.
However, Suarez’s most recent escapade during last weekend’s match between Liverpool and Villa was more legitimate than it first seemed. Initially, it appeared the South American was up to his usual tricks, but T.V replays showed there was contact between him and the ‘keeper. Very slight, but there was contact. It’s a sad fact of the modern game, some forwards look for a penalty, while others want to remain on their feet and score themselves. In the past, both Michael Owen and Alan Shearer went through a spell where many considered them ‘going down like a tonne of bricks’ too easily and way too often. Didier Drogba was another player defenders dare not go near, once he was in their area. Meanwhile, I personally recall Gary Lineker and Ian Rush regularly being hacked down in the area, only for the referee to wave play on.
In some respects, the forward of today’s game is just making up for the past. I attended a sportsman’s evening in the summer of 1998 with my father, and the guest sportsman was no other than former Tottenham Hotspur and England legend, Jimmy Greaves. I shook the hand of this unimposing, little latter middle aged man, and was astonished by his tales of being scythed down every Saturday afternoon without fail by Ron Harris, Norman Hunter, Dave Mackay, or Tommy Smith et al, but the referee would very rarely – if at all ever – award a penalty.
To be honest, if the likes of Suarez and Drogba remained on their feet more, they’d received less unfavourable criticism, but by the same token they’re hardly going to wait for a defender to tackle them for an absolutely obvious spot kick, crashing into the turf rugby union style. It’s the over theatrical collapse that infuriates the fans, falling down in a manner more a kin to someone being shot in a John Wayne western. Apparently you see this so frequently in every single Italian Serie A match, it’s puzzling if it does not occur. Or so I’ve been led to believe.
So to sum up, look at this phenomenon this way – it’s the dying seconds of the World Cup Final – England v Germany, the game is still goal-less, Wayne Rooney is through on goal, he just has the ‘keeper to beat. The goalkeeper races out at him, spreading himself to force the Englishman wide, there is very minimal contact, what should he do?