Suarez Again: What Constitutes Cheating?

Ian

Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

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14 Responses

  1. ejh says:

    I’d just much prefer it if the debate was conducted in a more reasoned manner, without all the moral high-horsery

    Hear hear. It’s noticeable how people who in other areas of life are able to discern that ethics is a complicated business are somehow able to declare on sport as if it were a simple thing and all we have to do was call something “cheating”. How do these people operate in their everyday lives, one wonders? Absolutely without deception, even when important things depend on it, even when in order to deceive would involve letting down the interests of people important to them?

    I don’t for a moment want to declare sport, or football in particular, an ethics-free zone, or even to state that all we have to do in sport is to operate within the rules and accept punishment when we transgress. But we need to tease out the issues involved and understand that people in sport, like people everywhere else, are living with contradictory imperatives that can’t always be resolved. And perhaps we can help that process by looking at the way the game works, understanding it as a system, rather than leaping on the back of whoever is the Transgressor Of The Week and thinking that one addresses a problem adequately by engaging in moral condemnation. It simply invites us to quote Macaulay on fits of morality in response.

  2. Suhrith says:

    Lot of good points. But I disagree on the analogy with a ball bowled outside the leg stump. It doesn’t quite fit in. A batsman in cricket can never be given out LBW to a ball pitched outside leg-stump and such is fully entitled to do so, legally and morally, considering that its the bowler who is often criticised for his negativity.

  3. sunil says:

    Cripes, Gavin! You mention human sacrifice, we would all agree Suarez is a choir boy compared to that!

    I say we ignore the moral questions and the fair play tar pit. Sells newspapers but gets us nowhere, really.

    Just come down hard on diving, jersey-pulling, handballs, smothering opponents, etc. Would Suarez have done what he did if Henry’s handball resulted in a 1-year ban from professional soccer? Maybe, maybe not, but some of us would find it appropriate.

  4. Gyppo says:

    A one year ban for handball? Eh? If the Henry incident, or for that matter the Suarez one, had happened in the first 80 minutes of their respective matches, no-one would be talking about them now. Look at Luis Fabiano. Forgotten.Should he be given a one year ban? Of course not.

  5. David Howell says:

    Nine times out of ten, you could play that scenario out and tonight’s match would have been Ghana-Netherlands, one way or another (assuming an 80% conversion rate for penalty kicks in normal play – which I seem to have read once, though I can’t remember where – as a typical average, and that any shootout that follows is 50-50).

    This is only an issue because that 90% chance didn’t come up. And dare I say it’s as big an issue as it is because it has ended the somewhat patronising hype of this tournament producing an African semi-finalist?

  6. sunil says:

    Gyppo, the punishment should fit the crime. You may think a year’s suspension is harsh. Fair enough. Maybe it is; 3 months, 6 months, 10 games, 20 games, whatever. Re: Fabiano, you may laugh it off as “it happens”. I personally would have decked him 10 games for club & country. The point is, an automatic red card is not sufficient to discourage game-changing incidents.

    We’re not talking about a rec game here. This is the biggest stage of all. If FIFA won’t put a stop to this, the monster will keep growing, and the game loses value. What’s the point watching or playing anymore?

    And as an Arsenal fan since 1979, you better believe it pained me when Henry did what he did.

  7. Gavin says:

    You may be right there, Suhrith, take out the bit about pitching outside leg stump and just take the lbw law generally. I’m still not at all sure the analogy works which is why I didn’t pursue it any further – the situations seem so different. But I think it could well be argued that they seem different only because of what we’re so used to seeing in the way the sports are played in practice. If you were able to find someone who had literally no knowledge of either sport and had never seen them played, and you gave them a copy of the laws of football and the laws of cricket, it’s far from clear to me that they would be able to figure out from those laws alone that a batsman sticking his leg in the way of a wicket-bound delivery was considered more acceptable than a defender sticking his arm in the way of a goal-bound shot.

  8. Dr Bob says:

    Another excellent article with great points – although the obvious difference between this incident and diving, falsely claiming throw-ins, etc is that, in this case, this rules-breach prevented a goal being scored. If an analogy from another sport is to be pursued, how about the penalty-try in rugby union? Then again, we have already seen FIFAs approach to fair play….

  9. Gyppo says:

    Sunil, I think you’ve missed my point slightly. I am annoyed by the Fabiano goal – not least because the ref clearly appeared to have seen the handball – but the hysteria around the incident isn’t present.

    On the wider point, every handball, every late tackle, every shirt pull, no matter when in the game or where on the pitch is game changing to a greater or lesser degree, whether by design or accident.

    Is it that you just want to apply this harsher penalty to situations such as cups, where there is no chance of a response? Would it only be in the last 10 minutes of a game, or would there be a stiffer penalty (as suggested by 1 year for Suarez, 10 games for Fabiano, in your examples)?

    Any incident can potentially be much bigger then it appears at the time.Take a handball to deny, say, Man Utd a goal in the 3rd minute of their opening game of the Premiership, dropping them 2 points which later means they miss out on the title, compared with a similar incident on the final day. Both have the same effect, but the impact of one isn’t immediately clear. Consistent punishment is how you clear that hurdle.

    What about in that same Blackpool game, a midfielder clipping Rooney’s ankle as he starts to run on a break? Could change the game, could change the season.

    Or is it just denying a clear goal scoring opportunity you wish to prevent? I foresee trouble with that, given that last defenders would be scared to put in a challenge in case they were a bit late and would get a very lengthy ban. If I were a coach with that type of rule in the game, I know for sure I’d play hideous long ball.

    Is it handballs in particular leading to the scoring or denial of goals? With Fabiano and Henry, the ref ‘missed’ the incidents. Would you need a video review panel? Let’s say a midfielder handled the ball sneakily to allow him to put a great through pass to a striker who was then one on one with the keeper and scores. Should he get a lengthy ban? If the striker booted the ball out of the stadium instead, should the same ban apply?

    Everything a player knowingly does should be to change the game, or else why bother. With that in mind, would you apply a tougher penalty to those offences deemed to be deliberate? Who would draw the line on an illegal tackle which could be down to malice or simply due to the tackler’s studs slipping a tiny bit making him late at the point of contact.

    The problem with your suggestion is that it doesn’t seem workable when applied to a range of circumstances, or at best it would be extremely complicated. The beauty of football is in part that it is simple. Everyone playing knows the rules; the ref should enforce them equally and consistently. What we have at the moment just about works. I certainly don’t think it’s perfect, and there may well be lots of little tinkering which could improve the game, but at the moment we do have a spectacle worth watching. Are the punishments always just? Certainly not, particularly in cups, although I would note that I bet Uruguay wished they had Suarez on the pitch at 3-2 down. That said, the rules are the same for both teams in any game.

    Now, the above might come over as a bit of a rant, and it certainly wasn’t intended to be, nor was it a personal attack. If you have a simple workable idea which you could expand on to cover that wide range of occurrences which every match, let alone every tournament, throws up, I’d be very interested to explore it.

  10. Michael Wood says:

    There are two problems here: semantics and approach.

    Firstly semantics.

    Suarez cheated, Luis Fabiano cheated, Maradona cheated, Neuer cheated, the fictional Blackpool player who clips Rooney in Gyppo’s example cheated. One can argue about the semantics of the words and say other things (hence the term semantics) but ultimately we are all describing the same thing.

    We know what this thing is when we see it but we tag it with different words.

    Second approach.

    All the discussion is on how to change rules, when to apply those rules, which rules to enforce and when but while there is some importance as that there is a recognition that culturally different schools of football behave in different ways. We recognise that these approaches to the game can change and the onus is on football and football supporters to change them.

    A change to the approach of the game that shuns people who behave in a way we find unacceptable – and as I say in point one we all know it when we see it – and to stop lionising footballers who behave in that way.

    Cultural changes are effected with time and influence and as football supporters we have both and can shape the game we follow.

  11. sunil says:

    Gyppo, you make some very valid points. And the devil is indeed in the details. But as Michael Wood points out, cheating is cheating. There will always be errors, missed calls, other injustices, jersey-tugging, diving, etc. What happens on the field for 90 mins is immutable, and I agree, the beauty of the game is it’s simplicity. I don’t want to change the game. We don’t need new rules.

    It’s the game-changing cheating that I would like video reviewed and punishment handed (pun intended) that would be sufficient to deter or at least minimize similar incidents from occurring in the future. Call it “for unprofessional conduct”.

    Surely each league or organization could have a committee to decide on the severity of the incident in question, if it was game-changing or not. It would be their call (and each group is different, that’s ok). And of course, it would depend on the significance of the game, no?

    To paraphrase Michael’s last sentence, changing the behavior of the players will shape the game.

  12. oftenscore6 says:

    Handling on the line to me is certainly no worse than tripping another player and certainly less dangerous. Suarez was caught and punished at the time (and Henry was not..) and suspensions only seem to be added where violence or abuse is involved which was not the case here. I agree with Gyppo that determining criticality of impact is almost impossible to do at the time – it could have been just as crucial in the 1st minute – and in league competitions it could be the whole season before a lost point here and there is felt.

    I think diving (including where the player trails his leg into someone to bring about contact even though that has no bearing on him going down) is a much more serious offence. Often it is followed by appeals to book the player who has done nothing wrong. I despair seeing this and its excusal by the likes of Jim Beglin who keep saying that the contact makes it a foul and the player is ‘entitled’ to go down. It ought only to be given as a foul if the contact (or dangerous challenge without contact) is what actually brings the player down. A yellow card for the diver is far too light in my opinion and has led to this apparently being ‘accepted practice’ amongst professionals. I would like to see a sliding scale of offences here, based on video reviews. Starting with a 1 match ban rising to 3 match for 2nd offence, 5 match for 3rd etc. When repeat offenders start facing 9, 11, 13 or more game bans for diving, they would certainly think twice about trying to con the referee.

  13. Dar says:

    Suarez’s pubnishment, a red card with a penalty kick given, was sufficient.

    There is no need for this outrage at him. Had someone tackled the Ghanaian kicker from behind, he likely would’ve also had been red carded and a penalty given, but would the demonization be the same? I doubt it.

    I think all this bruhaha is because it is Ghana, the “last hope of Africa, etc…”. I’m tired of all this romantic lifting up of African teams by the media and people.

    Africa has rarely given us any good solid football, just lots of speed and rough tackles and ill-discipline.

  1. July 6, 2010

    [...] Yellow on Suarez, the handball and the fallout. He reckons Suarez cheated, TwoHundredPercent does [...]

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