Liverpool and diving: the Suarez Question is born, then dies

If you earn £70,000 a week, you probably have to accept more scrutiny than most.

Luis Suarez is such an individual. After his appalling dive to con a referee and win a penalty against Arsenal today, he seemed to have claimed rights to the famous cheating question, posed by Salut! Sunderland to an opposing supporter before each SAFC game, for the rest of the season.

But then I thought again. Was this as bad as Eduardo for Arsenal against Celtic? No. Ngog for Liverpool at home to Birmingham City? No chance. Or – since the question also covers feigning injury and procuring cards for opponents – Barton for Newcastle at home to Arsenal? No again. Even our own Seb Larsson, for us at Wolves, deserves a place in the identity parade.

And Suarez? I decided that he is just too easy a target. His lamentable record doesn’t help: the cynical goal-line handball to deny Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, the unedifying racism row, the routine falling-over tricks.

If there was contact with the Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczezny at Anfield, it was minimal. It was also, arguably, originated by Suarez. The ensuing theatrics were obnoxious. But did they set Suarez apart? They did not.

Read this outstanding summing up by the Mirror’s Andy Dunn:

The pursuit of cheap penalties has been a disease in the game for some considerable time.

No team deserves sympathy when a debatable ­penalty decision goes against them because they all have operators who try to deceive ­officials.

Suarez is no more or no less ­deceitful than any other striker.

But this ­incident will be logged in the casebooks of those who ­consider him an unwelcome ­addition to the Premier League. He is no such thing.

Minus a goal, this was another performance of tireless enterprise, mixing impudence with incision, weathering a physical and often unfair ­examination from the Arsenal ­defence. Suarez did not deserve to be on a losing team.

Spot on,

Suarez was also responsible for as glorious a piece of individual skill as we have seen in the Premier all season, when he jinked his way through he Gunners’ defence and was desperately unlucky to see Szczezny save his shot. Szczezny also produced a wonderful double save to stop Liverpool, who otherwise deserved to win not lose, profiting from the more inglorious side to his game.

Salut! Sunderland
is hardly alone as a voice against cheating in football. But we are consistent, having banged on about it more or less since the site was created at the start of 2007.

And nor is it new, or the foreign phenomenon Little Englanders suppose it to be. Don Revie, as long ago as 1967 in an FA Cup 5th round replay against Sunderland, included an instruction to dive in his tactical team talk. It was obeyed and won Leeds the game.

And don’t take my word for it; read these words from Peter Lorimer’s autobiography:

Don said out of the blue: ‘If anybody gets anywhere near the box, get down.’ Jimmy Greenhoff, who was quick when he was in full flight, set off on one of his jinking runs and was fully five yards outside the penalty area when he was brought down. By the time he had stumbled, fallen and rolled over a couple of times he was inside the box, and the referee, Ken Stokes, pointed to the spot so quickly that it was almost embarrassing.

Lorimer might have been describing Gary McAllister’s equally effective dive, for Liverpool at the Stadium of Light 30+ years later. McAllister’s flight began not so much outside the penalty area as back in Sunderland city centre.

Maybe I am being charitable. But Suarez’s actions, amply punished by the missed penalty and loss of three points, fall short of that level of naked dishonesty.

The question’s name is currently the property of Everton’s Leon Osman after he managed to win a penalty against SAFC, having demonstrably fallen over his own feet with no Sunderland boot or body part anywhere near. It shall remain so for now.

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9 thoughts on “Liverpool and diving: the Suarez Question is born, then dies”

  1. Excellent article. I’m a Liverpool supporter and I agreed 100%. I think it’s necessary to somehow detach one’s opinions of Suarez from the Evra affair and then view him on his merits and faults accordingly.

    I’ve always defended Suarez on account of the fact that he’s our only player of original match-winning quality really, but I’ve always been mindful that I’d probably hate him if he played for United, so my feelings have never been totally devoted.

    Yesterday showed the good and the bad of his game. But watching him feign injury again and again made me think of the boy who cried “Wolf!”

    I personally think the penalty probably was a correct call but Suarez didn’t need the theatrics. It was ugly. Great players are above that.

    • He epitomised the word “scum”.

      To think that someone who encouraged his players to kidney punch, rake opposing players’ calves and was shown to have attempted to bribe opponents and referees ended up as an England manager beggars belief!

      I would, merrily, have watched him being skinned alive!

      • It must have given Bob great pleasure to rub his nose in it on the fifth of May, nineteen seventy three.

      • Think of Bobby Collins, think of Johnny (Butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth) Giles who did his dirty work, on the pitch, when the referee’s backs were turned!

        At least Bremner, Hunter etc. were prepared to commit themselves when players could see them.

        The first two I named were just cowardly thugs!!

  2. There was contact on the shin. It took a few replays to show it but in the end I saw enough that stopped me short of being disappointed in Suarez. I think most replays suggest more of a dive than it was. This is the problem with TV replays and, as much as Suarez obviously played it up, people need to be careful coming to conclusions based on limited TV angles. It’s like low-to-the-ground catches in cricket. Sometimes you can put something on a frame by frame replay and it just makes it harder. In a moment of such high skill and close angles any contact with a player’s feet, no matter how light, will break their stride and prevent them finishing a move. That’s simply all it needs to be and the extra flailing and acting become somewhat unimportant.

    Don’t be tempted into labelling Suarez a flagrant cheat because of how he appears, the emotion he displays or how he rolls around on the ground. It’s the easy answer but if you look more carefully I think you’ll find he doesn’t go down when there is no contact. If he finds he’s been disadvantaged by contact with a defender then he plays it up. It’s natural for us to take offence to his over-the-top grimacing and dramatic falls but that’s not a true reflection of what happened in the actual contact situation. The look on his face is easy to find offensive but our human nature and I’d suggest it does undermine your ability to be purely objective.

  3. I take your point about the penalty incident if viewed in isolation.

    However, it was not an isolated incident in yesterday’s game and Suarez was, constantly, diving and rolling around for the entire game, in an attempt to win free kicks and get the ref (who I thought, in general, had an excellent game) to book Arsenal players.

    In my view he is a, supremely, talented player but (probably) the biggest cheat playing in the Premier League.

  4. The TV replays show contact off the keepers shin so how can it be a dive?If that went to a video replay the penalty would have been given because there was contact and Suarez was impeded.

  5. All comments, subject to usual rules of decency, are welcome but first-time posters will have to wait for moderation before their golden prose appears, Sorry.

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