Luis Suarez: The beauty and the beast of world football

2014-06-21 00:00

IT seems like just the other day that the African continent was left appalled and furious at Luis Suarez after his blatant cheating at South Africa’s 2010 World Cup “single-handedly” knocked Ghana out of the quarter-finals. As I have said before, it wasn’t so much the act of cheating that day that left us enraged, but rather the smug, self-indulgent celebrations that followed. Luis Suarez had made a name for himself.

His journey over the next four years has been one crazy ride. Too often the centre of attention for all of the wrong reasons — a perennial diver, the biting incident and allegations of racism — Suarez has done little to change the reputation he moulded for himself at South Africa 2010.

But what the Uruguayan lacks in etiquette and tact on the pitch, he more than makes up for in ability. Watching him deliver two sucker punches to an England side fielding no fewer than five Liverpool players in their starting line-up was something special. With Gerrard, Henderson, Johnson, Sturridge and Sterling all combining, at one stage the match could have been billed “Suarez v Liverpool”. And Liverpool lost.

It’s easy to dislike Suarez. He makes sure of that. Immediately after scoring his second goal he was down in a heap in the centre circle with cramp. I doubt very much that would have been the case if the scores were still level. But you can’t question his class. And, more importantly, you can’t question his passion. After scoring the winner, Suarez was visibly overcome with emotion and was fighting back tears right up until the final whistle.

“I’ve dreamt of this moment,” he said after the match. What moment? The moment when you dash the hopes of half of your Liverpool team-mates?

No. I suspect his dreams had more to do with winning big matches for his country on the grandest stage. And that is something that nobody can question.

He is something special. The hype surrounding the performances of Neymar, Messi, Robben and Van Persie at the tournament so far have been justified, but Suarez has now arrived and he wants his slice of the pie.

And he won’t go away. He’ll keep running, fighting, diving, swearing, fouling and shooting until he gets his goal. That’s just the way he plays.

When things aren’t going his way, he can be one of the ugliest players in the world and sometimes impossible to stomach. But he pops up with the goods when it counts and, more often than not, it’s so worth the wait.

“Suarez has done little to change the reputation he moulded for himself at South Africa 2010.”

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