Barcelona: Brilliant ballplayers or blatant bilkers?

John McCormick with something to get your teeth into

Down here in Liverpool the red half of the city reveres Louis Suarez. They see it as no surprise that Liverpool FC achieved their highest ever PL position, not to mention winning the League cup and making the FA cup final, when he was there. They don’t forget he was their highest scorer for three consecutive seasons. But what they seem to remember more than this, or his undoubted skill, is his will to win. During his time at Liverpool Louis Suarez fought for everything, never gave up and lifted the team around him. He deserves massive respect for that and he still gets it.

But does he have a dark side – the bans he has served might answer that question – and does he cheat? Have a look at the video below and make your own mind up:

Let’s go back to Louis Suarez’ will to win. It’s the Champions League, his side is running out of time and is losing and he has been booked for a dive in the box. So what does he do? Have a look about 4 mins 30 in on the next clip and make your mind up again:

I can picture a scenario which might or might not be true:

“Ok, I’ve been booked and risk going off but it will count for nothing as we’re going to lose anyway, so here goes”,

Having looked at that clip a number of times I think Suarez dived to try to win another penalty and this time he got away with it. That’s my take on the situation. What’s yours?

I know that those thousands of screaming fans in the Nou Camp won’t care what I think. For them it’s an “I was there”, moment and if it had been the SOL and Sunderland in that position I’d no doubt be feeling exactly the same.

I suppose that makes me a hypocrite but I don’t blame Louis Suarez, or his teammates. I don’t blame the fans. I don’t blame the ref, who didn’t fall for a con the first time around. But I do take issue with the commentators I heard after the match and also the football authorities.

According to the commentators it was a great night and the greatest comeback of all time in the Champions League, better even than Liverpool’s return from the dead in 2005.

No it wasn’t . It was another example from a sport whose purity is constantly being marred by poor sportsmanship and blatant attempts to con the referee, and the commentators glibly passed over this: “contact was minimal”, to quote Steve Gerrard. The hype, the extravaganza, these are what matters now and the dishonesty of players, managers and commentators in turning blind eyes to unsporting conduct at best, and blatant cheating at worst, are complicit in allowing the integrity of a game we’ve all played and loved to be diminished in the name of money. The authorities who are charged with the good of the game know this and turn the blindest eyes of all. And it stinks.

I’m not naïve. I know this is nothing to do with bringing in foreign players or competing with foreign clubs who have a different ethos. “Win at all cost” has always existed. Anyone willing to sift through our archives will find examples all over, be it the players in 1913, (the dirtiest final...)   the manager in 1967  (…dirty Leeds) or a certain chairman ten years later. (dirty deeds).

But now we have TV, with repeats, slo-mo replays and high definition close-ups, all with anodyne commentary, and they’re showing football for what it is. A business where money is all that matters, and where everyone bar the fans has no interest in rocking a very lucrative boat.

I went to bed angry last night, and I woke up angry this morning. Not because Barcelona won. Not because PSG lost. I couldn’t care about either of them. I’m angry because the commentators, the owners, the adminstrators, are selling the game down the river by ignoring the conniving, the cheating side of football. They could stop it, they should stop it, but they won’t

I watch less and less football on TV while TV companies pay more and more to screen it. And though fans might scream, sometimes from delight, sometimes for fair play, it’s the money that talks.

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4 thoughts on “Barcelona: Brilliant ballplayers or blatant bilkers?”

  1. John – I agree with all you say but……………

    Former players give credence to the idea that it is the professional thing to cheat and I suppose it is. Former member of the “crazy gang” Alan Cork said on telly the other day that a player should have deliberately committed a foul and taken a booking to prevent a goal.

    That’s what footballers are paid to do. Honesty and fair play are old fashioned public school attitudes but in reality was that ever more than a hypothetical morality to foster the notion that the gentleman was superior to the player?

    I remember as a wet behind the ears son of a miner, going to college in London and getting roped into playing in goal in a hockey match. We were playing against the Old Boys of a well known public school and well padded up, the speed of my movement was limited. The ball went miles behind the goal for a corner so being the obliging chap I am I went and retrieved it and rolled it to one of the opposition who then went and took the corner before I had time to get back between the sticks! B*£s*”?d!

    First time I got the chance I crashed into him feet first!

    Obviously money is one of the driving forces in the win at all costs mentality of professional clubs and I’m afraid that some fans do little to negate that and share the philosophy. But the same is true in the lower leagues too if to a lesser extent.

    Is diving worse than appealing for a corner when you know it’s a goal kick? When a defender is being “touch tight” to an attacker, holding him back and preventing an unobstructed run in the box, is that less worse than a dive? Discuss.

    After all that I’m not mounting a defence of cheating. Personally I would get no satisfaction from winning, knowing I had done it unfairly, but then I’ve never really been that competitive and have always tried to play within the rules. I also have never played any sport for money or where the result would affect me financially.

    Where it can be used technology has to be the way forward to reduce such incidents but it will only work if retrospective punishments come in afterwards, players get lengthy bans and teams are punished by points deductions or results overturned. That’s not going to happen and would result in legal challenges.

    I too watch less and less football on TV – in fact I only watch Sunderland matches and lately even that has made me question my sanity.

  2. I have thoroughly enjoyed trawling through the links to older salut articles.

    Suarez is a joke.

    And I am pig-sick of footy pundits.

  3. Must agree with the spirit of your post , John. I cared about the result only because I don’t think it could happen to a more appropriate club, Chelsea maybe offering serious competition. And I bore some people with my relentless banging on about cheating. Yes, Suarez cheated. Sadly, our own try – less successfully – to do the same. The game is rotten in that as in some other respects and that is why I always ask the question in WAY interviews.

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