Luis Suarez: The Hero or Villain?

Oscar Wilde once said that the ‘only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.’ The quote epitomizes Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, who in a record breaking season has redeemed himself to the Merseyside faithful. Nearly a year ago, Suarez was labeled the ultimate footballing pariah after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. The crisis threatened to consume the Uruguayan, who, aside from being given a 10 game ban by The FA, was nearly driven out of the English game. The British press went after the striker with a fierce intensity and assassinated his character in a blood thirsty manner.

Somehow he survived the media maelstrom and is now currently enjoying the best season of his career.  His resilience confirms that Luis Suarez the sinner, and the man so many people love to hate, has one the brightest futures in world soccer.

At the time of writing, Liverpool sit in second place in the Premier League and remain on the cusp of claiming their first league title in 22 years. Irrespective of whether they win the league or not, Suarez will play in the UEFA Champions League next season. It is a stage he craves and one that his talent deserves. On a personal level, things couldn’t get much better for Suarez, who will surely be the frontrunner for all the domestic ‘Player of the Year’ awards.

Suarez currently sits on 29 Premier League goals, despite only having played 27 games. The Uruguayan has arguably surpassed fellow Anfield legend Robbie Fowler for the most prolific season by a Liverpool player in the Premier League era. Prior to catching fire and finding the form of his life, Suarez had to work hard to find redemption from the Anfield faithful. In the aftermath of the infamous Ivanovic incident, he soured relations by threatening to leave Liverpool. Those tense times are now a distant memory and Suarez is once again one of the fan favorites. The Kop have shown their capacity to forgive and forget the transgressions of the past. Although forgiving is easier when the talent is elite and the future seems promising.

Unfortunately, many within the soccer world are unable or unwilling to move on. In the eyes of his detractors, his reputation will be forever tarnished by the unsavory racism saga involving Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and the biting debacles he has twice been involved in his career.

To be fair to his critics, Suarez has rightly received widespread condemnation for his actions, which have no place on a football pitch, or anywhere else for that matter. However, one must realize that with players such as Suarez, who walk on the edge between brilliance and madness. There will always be a danger and at a moments notice they can fall off with devastating results. The amazing passion he has for the game is the defining factor of his success and is so often a positive force but, on the other hand, when harnessed in the wrong way it manifests itself in a negative and harmful manner.

It is easy for people to fall prey to the many popular misconceptions about Suarez. They are pedaled by the media via the countless articles that have portrayed him as a footballing pariah. However, in a recent interview with Four Four Two Magazine, Suarez helped shatter some of the myths perpetuated by the negative press. For instance, it may surprise you to hear that Suarez has been totally devoted to one woman, his beloved wife Sofia, for his entire adult life- they have been together since he was 16 years old. He is clearly a humble human being and a very proud father who values, above all else, family life and privacy as opposed to partying and off the field idiocy. All of his problems have stemmed from moments of madness on the pitch- never has he suffered any adverse publicity in his private life, which is more than can be said for many Premier League footballers.

“Away from the pitch, I’m a very calm person. On the pitch, I argue, I shout, I talk rubbish and generally do anything I can to get ahead. I’m totally different. I forget about everything else.”

He seems to have a bit of Jekyll and Hyde about his personality. The moment he crosses the white line he changes from Luis Suarez, the devoted, fun loving family man into ‘El Pistolero’ (The Gunslinger): a cold blooded assassin with the dead eyed stare and killer instincts to match even the most infamous sharp shooters. Yet his win at all costs mentality and on the pitch persona could not be further removed from the charming and disarming character he is away from the field of play.

His international team mate Diego Forlan echoes the same sentiments when he commented that on the pitch Suarez is, “an aguerrido- a warrior, a soldier who has been through war, a fighter for every ball.”

“He still is, but there is another side to him. From when I first started speaking to him I could see he was polite, respectful and keen to learn. He’s a very nice guy who is completely different off the pitch to on it.”

Instead of vilifying Suarez for his flaws, we should try and accept his imperfections and embrace the fact that he can oscillate from the sublime to the bizarre in the blink of an eye. Sure, Suarez does have the penchant for provocative and oft time’s controversial behavior but, without this edge he would not be so prone to the moments of sheer footballing genius he consistently produces.

In short, the Premier League is a far more exciting place with the presence of Luis Suarez and he would be sorely missed if he elected to leave English football. So, if in the future Suarez reveal his dark side once again try and remember that the ‘only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.’

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