No. 13: Luis Suarez Becomes The Scourge Of Africa (South Africa, 2010)
Soccer is a game that pits players with various moral dilemmas. Should you dive to win your team a penalty? Should you move the ball forward those extra few yards when the referee has his back turned? Should you waste time when your team is leading?
Essentially, is cheating a justifiable means to an end, when the end is victory for the team and in the World Cup, for your country? Or even, in the case of the 2010 tournament, a continent.
The World Cup in South Africa in 2010 was the first ever played on African soil and subsequently, the entire continent united behind the African teams taking part. But after the group stage, only one team from the continent remained.
That was the Ghanaian side. The Black Stars had been solid yet unspectacular in the group stages of the tournament, qualifying in second place after one win, one draw and one defeat in their opening three games.
Though after an extra-time victory over the United States in the second round, the continent began to dream. They faced Uruguay in the quarter-finals and when Sulley Muntari gave the Black Stars the lead just before half time, Ghana were 45 minutes away from the best ever African performance at a World Cup.
But in Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and most notably, Diego Forlan, the Uruguayans had a wealth of goalscoring options and it was the latter of the aforementioned trio who levelled things up with a thunderous free-kick early in the second period.
The match eventually went to extra time and with the clock ticking towards the 120-minute mark, penalties loomed large. But a late scramble in the box saw Uruguay clear the ball off the goal line, with the ball rebounding to Dominic Adiyiah just six yards out.
He looked set to bury it and send Ghana into the semi-finals, but it wasn’t to be:
What happened next?
After Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty, the referee blew the full-time whistle. Uruguay eventually went on to win on penalties, with the Ghanaian players heartbroken.
The anger of the watching world turned squarely onto Suarez; the sight of the then Ajax man celebrating Gyan’s penalty miss just didn’t sit right with many. It was cranked up even further when Suarez declared in the aftermath that “the hand of God now belongs to me”, per The Guardian.
Speaking about the incident this year, Suarez insists he still has no regrets, per Goal.com:
I stick with the feeling of having helped my team. I stopped a goal, and I believe that it is worse when you stop a goal and injure an opponent, seriously injure them, and get sent off for that.
Stopping a goal with my hand I believe did nothing evil to anyone—it was just stopping a goal.
Uruguay eventually went out to the Dutch in the semi-finals, whilst Ghana were left to wonder what might have been.
It was a great shame that an African team didn’t make it to the semi-final, for it would have been an incredible spectacle. But how many of us in that position—with a spot in the World Cup semi-final on the line—could honestly say we wouldn’t have done the same as Suarez?
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