As some of you will know I’m a keen supporter of Liverpool Football Club, and sometimes I write about football matters here. An incident in the match this weekend has gotten me fired up and I want to address it. We had an FA Cup tie against the mighty Mansfield Town FC. They’re members of the Blue Square Premier League, which is one rung below the bottom tier of professional English football. Hardly giants then but the FA Cup regularly throws up these great David and Goliath battles. Going into it I was pretty confident and I hoped we’d avoid this potential embarrassing banana skin.
In the end we won the game 2-1 but it was hotly contested and the non-league boys did themselves proud. Our new signing Daniel Sturridge started and scored his first goal after only 7 minutes. I’m very happy about all that. However, around the hour mark Sturridge was substituted for the ever controversial Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan striker is our top scorer and easily the best player this season, but he does like to bend the rules a bit at times. In scoring Liverpool’s second goal he illegally controlled the ball with his hand before putting it in. This has caused much upset among Mansfield fans since and rightly so in my opinion.
Of course Suarez is a hate figure in some quarters and perhaps it’s been seized on a little enthusiastically, but I don’t buy that defence sorry. Our manager Brendan Rodgers came out and said “it’s not up to the players to be honest, the ref should have spotted it” or words to that effect. So what does that mean? Cheating is fine as long as you don’t get caught. Great approach. The pundits are all saying Liverpool fans shouldn’t complain and if other teams players did it their fans would be happy too. Well I am a Liverpool fan and I wasn’t really happy about it. You can call me a stick in the mud or some holier than thou pain in the arse if you like but it’s not right. I won’t celebrate underhandedness, no pun intended. Cheating to win a game is not satisfying and it doesn’t make me feel good. Who cares what lengths you have to stoop to if you get the result right? Well I’m sorry. I care. I think Suarez is a magnificent player and a great talent, I’m glad he plays for our club, but that’s what annoys me most about him sometimes. He doesn’t NEED to do this. He’s good enough to win matches on his own without cheating and most of the time he does. Just every now and then he seems to feel the need to do something ridiculous. When fans of other teams tell me they hate him and what he stands for I find it very hard argue. I won’t defend cheating and underhandedness, no pun intended.
The thing which really confounded the crime for me was the way he kissed his hand in celebration after scoring. Very publicly. People tell me the handball wasn’t deliberate and maybe it wasn’t, but kissing the offending hand in celebration and rubbing it in everyone’s face is just too much. Off the pitch Suarez doesn’t seem like a bad bloke actually and I do think at times he’s made a scapegoat, but he gives his critics ammunition time and time again. He’s his own worst enemy. Just play your football properly and get on with it.
Update – It seems I am wrong on this hand kissing point. Suarez kisses his hand in reference to a tattoo of his daughter’s name. I’m more familiar with the finger pointing skywards section of his celebration. My mistake. Thanks to Simon Doyle on G+ for that.
Some Liverpool fans will remember years ago when Robbie Fowler (now there was a player) was awarded a penalty for an apparent foul by David Seaman in a match against Arsenal. He jumped straight up and told the ref he’d just fallen over and it wasn’t a penalty, because it wasn’t. Every pundit seems to believe that if players did that today they’d be sacked by managers and fans would hate them. Is it really so wrong to play fairly? I loved Fowler all the more for his honesty that day and it made me proud to be a Liverpool fan. Proud to wear the shirt. If that makes me out of step with culture today then so be it. I hate deliberate cheating and it annoys me all the more when it’s by a Liverpool player.
Mansfield Town left 96 seats empty at the game and cordoned off as a mark or respect to the victims of Hillsborough. Is this how we repay their good will? We should be better than that. They deserved a replay at Anfield for the way they fought. I can totally understand if they feel they were robbed.
It seems handball isn’t just an obscure sport we see once every 4 years at the Olympics. I wish Suarez would concentrate on being the great footballer he obviously is, and stop trying to be a pantomime villain. We all make mistakes and sometimes I’m sure he falls over and get’s blamed for diving but be honest about it. That’s my 2 cents. If you made it this far I thank you for reading. Rant over.
Yours sincerely, a (sometimes) proud Liverpool fan.