There’s an article in The Sun today about the Eden Hazard incident on Wednesday night, written by Terry Venables – well, obviously not written by, but at least accredited to – and it appears under an image of Luis Suarez.
Not to be pedantic, but hasn’t this gone far enough now? The article has nothing to do with Suarez, yet his image is used as some kind of generic visual synonym for ugliness within ‘our’ game.
The Uruguayan bends the rules, and he’s admitted to as much, but let’s stop pretending that he’s the only one and that simulation is the only offence in the game worth getting upset about. Time-wasting, false appealing, injury-feigning, referee-baiting: up and down the league, teams are stuffed full of players determined to take as much of an advantage as they can possibly get away with.
I don’t particularly like Luis Suarez, and I don’t much care for Liverpool, but there’s a difference between a casual animosity and a contrived attempt to cast a single player as the personification of all the game’s current ills.
Quite obviously Luis Suarez doesn’t help himself in this situation, but there’s a sense now that this has all got rather personal and unprofessional. It’s the xenophobic aspect at work here that makes me feel so uncomfortable – would we treat a English player like this? Did we linger on Steven Gerrard’s assertion before the 2006 World Cup that he would happily dive to win a penalty? No – because Gerrard was reacting to an ugly phenomenon which exists in the game already, just as Suarez has tailored his game to take advantage of whatever he can get away with. In this situation, there’s something very unsettling about the determination with which the press have tried to make a foreigner the public face of wrong-doing.
The Sun article is here if you can be bothered – and no, the irony of a moral lecture coming from Terry Venables hasn’t escaped me, I’m just suffering from negativity-fatigue this week.