With the memory of his devilish handiwork on the goal line fading into the distance, Luis Suarez yesterday reminded viewers of the moral impotence that comes with his dynamic craft.
A clash with the already riled Patrice Evra midway through the second half was initially written off as a show of derby day frostiness, but post match accusations of racism now threaten to overshadow what was an intense, if at times incoherent, spectacle.
Speaking to French television station Canal+ in the game’s aftermath, Evra accused Suarez of saying “a certain word to me ten times” before stating that there is “no place for that in 2011.”
Calls for punitive action are already staining football’s twenty-first century rant line – at the time of writing, Twitter still froths with righteous indignation. As the game’s anti-racism initiatives continue to gain support, tolerance for any kind of racial abuse is dissipating. Unbelievably, more than one powerful tweeter spoke of a six month ban.
Cast as football’s archetypal villain, Suarez makes an easy target. He bit PSV Eindhoven defender Otman Bakkal last season and refused to apologize. He cheated to deny an entire continent a fairy tale ending to its most important sporting event, before celebrating wildly on the sidelines.
Threatened to be offset by those childish antics is a footballing talent that doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed. A stunning season with Ajax in 2009/10 prefaced three goals at the World Cup where, forgotten in the wake of later events, Suarez was arguably Uruguay’s second best player. Alerted by strong international showings and a quite astounding goal to game ratio in Holland, Europe’s most illustrious suitors came calling, with Liverpool eventually securing the forward’s services in late January, 2011.
A gifted dribbler and prolific marksman, cult-hero status comes easily to the feisty South American. While his theatrical reaction to the slightest fouls alienate many neutral observers, the constant condemnation he faces only serves to reinforce the Kop’s all consuming affection. The “us against them” mentality so commonly associated with football clubs and their fans is perfectly manifested by Suarez; every time he is discussed opinions are vehement – Liverpudlians against the rest of the world.
That controversy adds glamour to footballing mystique is a fallacy preached by too many. Suarez’s persistent toeing of the disciplinary line doesn’t improve him as a player. His behavior doesn’t add anything to the Suarez who scored from an impossible angle against Sunderland, nor the one who ripped Manchester United to shreds last April. Whether or not he is indeed guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra, and representatives of the player have moved quickly to deny allegations, the fact remains that Suarez is a polarizing presence – an enigma both troublesome and beautiful; inspirational and malignant.
If Liverpool are to revive the spirit of past triumphs, then they will need their star striker operating at top level. That means Suarez must shelve inappropriate fancies, and appreciate that a change in temperament will contribute to a longer and more stable relationship.