Luis Suarez doesn't quite have the cleanest of images when it comes to his credentials as a footballer, and the Uruguayan is known to have courted multiple controversies in what has been an otherwise glittering career so far.
The FC Barcelona forward has had his share of incidents worthy of condemnation in 12 years that he has spent in his senior career so far. From racial slurs, getting into tussles with his teammates to biting opponents on-field, Suarez has given his critics plenty of fodder to work around with.
Then there was the incident, in a World Cup match nonetheless, that drew comparisons with Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' itself. Unlike the 1986 instance though, this one helped prevent a crucial goal, which only garnered more haters for the striker. A last-minute move that proved decisive in preventing Ghana from scripting a fairytale in what was only their second appearance in one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
The 2010 edition of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the first to be hosted in the continent of Africa, witnessed Uruguay and Ghana collide in the quarter-finals. The odds were somewhat tipped in favour of two-time champions Uruguay, who had gone into a brief period of decline in the 1990s but witnessed a revival in the 2000s with the emergence of the likes of Suarez and Diego Forlan.
The Ghanaians, on the other hand, enjoyed more support at Johannesburg's Soccer City, being the only African side left in the competition at that stage compared to the six (including hosts South Africa) at the start of the event. Ghana's win over the United States in the Round of 16 clash, which the Black Stars won in a penalty shootout, gave fans hope of an African team bringing the kind of glory to the continent that they had only been dreaming of till date.
There has always been a healthy debate around sportsmanship and gamesmanship, and how ethics should ideally be preserved in competitive sport. However, there are also times when the instinct to survive takes over, and athletes end up thinking only about themselves, or their team for that matter. That is what might have crept into Suarez's head when he was standing at the goal line in the last minute of extra-time in the do-or-die clash just as Dominic Adiyiah attempted to head the ball into the net.
Sulley Muntari gave the Ghanaians the lead towards the end of the first half with an assist from Asamoah Gyan before Forlan brought 'La Celeste' level with their opponents from a well-directed free kick 10 minutes into the second half. The scores remained level for the rest of the half, with Suarez and Kevin-Prince Boateng both coming close to netting for their teams.
Not much happened for the most part during extra time, save the last couple of minutes — in which the Ghana players felt a wide range of emotions that ultimately ended with shock and anger. Adiyiah went for a header and nearly got the ball across the line when Suarez decided to fill in for the goalkeeper, and used his right hand to slap the ball away.
The referee instantly spotted Suarez's act, and promptly brought out the red card, ruling the striker out of the next game. Suarez even acted somewhat surprised upon the booking and left the ground with his face buried in his jersey. Although Uruguay still weren't sure of a spot in the semis, Suarez's act of gamesmanship kept them afloat.
Gyan had the chance to end Uruguayan hopes but he struck his spot kick against the crossbar much to the joy of the Uruguayans as his teammates and supporters could only watch in horror. The rest is history, as Ghana couldn't quite get their focus together after that last-minute drama, and missed two of their attempts in the penalty shootout to lose 4-2.
A Suarez-less Uruguay though, couldn't stretch their run beyond the semis as they bowed out of the tournament with a 3-2 loss to eventual runners-up the Netherlands, before suffering a loss at the hands of Germany by a similar margin to finish at the fourth spot in the tournament.
For Ghana, as well as for many others in the football world, Suarez had become something of a villain. At the same time, there were a few passing his act off as 'instinctive', something that should be forgotten with the passage of time. The man of the hour himself though showed little regret over his controversial act. "The Hand of God now belongs to me. I made the best save of the tournament," were his words to be precise.
Love him or hate him, one can't deny the kind of impact that Suarez has had on the fortunes of the teams he's played for. Unlike Lionel Messi and some of the others he's played alongside, it doesn't look like he's going to go down in football history with the legacy of a hero.
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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2018 23:13:27 IST