x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Liverpool's Luis Suarez right to accept 'gift' in FA Cup

The Uruguayan striker grabbed a controversial goal in the win against Mansfield Town, but he did nothing wrong, writes Jonathan Wilson.

Liverpool's Luis Suarez, right, scored a controversial goal against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup. Clive Mason / Getty Images
Liverpool's Luis Suarez, right, scored a controversial goal against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Luis Suarez has spoken in recent interviews about the need to rebuild his reputation among English fans. He says he does not care what people think and yet he gives the clear sense that beneath the bravado, he is hurt by the consensus in England that he is a cheat.

On Sunday, he had the opportunity to rebuild at least some of his reputation (leaving aside the aftermath of the Patrice Evra racism incident, positions on which are so entrenched and the issues so complex that there is little point going into them here).

He could have owned up to a handball that led too Liverpool's winner against Mansfield Town.

He could have acknowledged that the ball struck his hand before he scored and asked the referee to disallow it.

He could, at a stroke, have helped mitigate the damage of his diving and the handball on the line in the final minute of Uruguay's World Cup quarter-final in South Africa that denied Ghana a winner.

But he didn't.

The way he stuck the ball over the line at Mansfield suggested he knew he was guilty and fully expected the whistle to blow. It didn't and he accepted the gift. And really, why shouldn't he have?

Would it be a better world if players habitually declared fouls against themselves, if they never appealed for throw-ins when they knew the ball had come last off them; if they never dived and never argued?

Of course it would, but the modern culture of football is to seek every advantage going and it is ludicrous to hold Suarez to different standards to everybody else.

When Demba Ba scored with his hand for Newcastle United against West Bromwich Albion earlier in the year was there the same fuss? No, because Ba is not the controversial figure Suarez is.

Football is a game in which so many decisions are down to interpretation. Was a handball intentional? Was a brush of shoulders a foul or simply jockeying? Was a foot raised dangerously? Essentially referees have to be left to get on with it.

Suarez has been on the wrong end of a number of penalty decisions this season; here a decision went in his favour.

It is not ideal but, as the Mansfield manager Paul Cox acknowledged, it is the way football is and, while Suarez might have earned himself some goodwill by owning up, he should not be blamed for the general culture.

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