When Branislav Ivanovic ruthlessly smashed one of his limbs into the gaping, innocent maw of Luis Suarez back in April of this year, few of us could barely believe the character assassination that followed. Not of Chelsea’s detestable, cowardly Serb, Ivanovic – who, to anyone with a pair of working eyes, was clearly the guilty party – but of our beloved, valiant, squeaky clean, heroic number seven. Incredibly, (and contrary to telegenic evidence) the gentle Uruguayan was deemed to have used his teeth inappropriately while defending himself against his aggressor, and this so-called ‘biting offence’ prompted a ten match ban and some of the cleverest minds in the country to demand his immediate removal from it.
It was the second time that Suarez – widely regarded as one of football’s leading role models – had been unfairly punished simply for defending himself on a football pitch. In 2010, while playing for Ajax, he was set upon by PSV Eindhoven’s Otman ‘The Bastard’ Bakkal, who taunted him with sick Freddie Mercury jibes before shoulder-butting him in the mouth. Astonishingly, having bruised Bakkal’s skin, Suarez was once again found guilty and left facing the music, this time to the tune of a two match ban handed down by his own club. The Dutch FA were quick to join the witch hunt, increasing the ban to seven games for a laugh and dubbing Suarez ‘The Cannibal of Ajax’ – a moniker that the twisted Ivanovic would later use to his own unsportsmanlike advantage.
But Luis is no stranger to ill-deserved criticism and name calling. Earlier that same year, during a World Cup quarter final against Ghana, he pulled off a stunning goal line save to deny Dominic Adiyiah late on, only to be called a “cheating cunt” when everyone immediately noticed he’d flanged it away with his fist. The clearance was so good it was later described as “the save of the tournament” – sadly only by Luis Suarez himself, earning more uncalled for derision. Similarly, after scoring the winning goal against lowly Mansfield Town in the FA Cup, the Stags’ chairman, his orange wife, and even the local vicar were quick to slag him off to absolute shit and back for supposedly slapping the ball in with a hand and failing to “own up” to it. In the vicar’s case it might not be the first time he’d made a lot from something that wasn’t there, but once again the undeserved reputation of Luis Suarez, one of the world’s moral crusaders, had gone before him. A reputation cruelly erected from the misquotes of a thousand interviews.
Of course, the biggest injustice of all happened during a typically good-natured encounter with Man Utd in 2011 when, in a playful exchange with Patrice Evra, Luis was tricked into referencing the colour of his opponent’s skin. Evra, known for his underhanded manipulation of Uruguayan cognizance, had clearly planned the exchange in advance, hoodwinking Luis into using derogatory terms and then grassing him right up after the game – knowing full well the media would lap it up. Luis denied the charges but it was too late. Not even a quickly designed screen-printed t-shirt could bring about a change in perceptions, and the club’s airtight defence of their star player was all in vain against the media machine and the clever, diminutive Frenchman. Luis was handed an eight game ban and fined £40,000 – a punishment which was described by many as “from someone’s fucking arse”.
In the return fixture at Old Trafford some months later, during the pre-match handshakes, Luis reached for the hand of the man who had previously bested him, determined to put the whole nasty affair behind him once and for all. But the crafty Evra tricked him again, lowering his hand at the last minute and going “Aaaaah!” under his breath, then feigning outrage. There was little Luis could do – Evra had ‘done him’ again. And, just as before, the media were quick to castigate the South American for doing a dirty foreign shite all over their beloved game. From this moment on, Luis’s mind was made up.
To his great credit, he stuck it out for another season, fighting the now constant discrimination like a footballing John Merrick. Until this summer, while away on international duty with Uruguay, where Luis was quick to do a number of interviews in his native tongue, citing the media in England as the main reason for wanting to leave not only Liverpool but the Premier League, too. And who could blame him? After all, outside of the two biting incidents, being found guilty of racially abusing another player, the deliberate handball denying a nation a place in the World Cup semi final, the bans and the accusations of diving, there was very little on his record to warrant the kind of systematic defamation he’d been subjected to over here.
Upon his return to these shores it turned out he’d be quite happy to sign for trophy-dodging Champions League warm up act, Arsenal. Or Real Madrid. Or anyone in the Champions League. Or anyone at all that wasn’t Liverpool. Or none of those, some of those, all of those, or fuck knows. He turned out for a couple of friendlies looking like someone had shit in his cornflakes and then, as soon as the rest of the squad had fucked off to Norway for the day, he legged it to the Guardian to give an exclusive. “Let me leave!” he cried, as though chained to a fucking sink by Jigsaw.
“They gave me their word a year ago and now I want them to honour that. And it is not just something verbal with the coach but something that is written in the contract.”
– Luis Suarez, talking shite
Regrettably for Luis, the misfortune never ends, as this summer’s transfer window has proven. Not only have the club refused to sell him to Arsenal – they’ve flat out refused to sell him to anyone at all. And they promised. They promised verbally. With words!
Having heard that the club had reneged on this watertight deal, Luis still insisted there was a clause in his contract allowing him to go if a club stood in a certain spot at a certain time of the day, with the staff of Ra, and gained the exact location of the Well of the Souls. He enlisted the help of PFA chief Gordon Taylor to confirm or deny as much. Taylor agreed to look into it just as soon as he’d finished talking about how players had too much power these days. Upon closer inspection, Taylor confirmed there was indeed a clause allowing Suarez to leave. In three years. At the end of his contract. The one he’d signed a year ago. This slavery, for want of a far more accurate and far less exaggerated term, is apparently due to a ridiculous stipulation whereby the signature on said contract is deemed legally binding and, somewhat coincidentally, matches that of the player, as if he endorsed it himself.
So what does this all mean? Well, painfully for Luis Suarez, it means he currently has to train in a big field on his own, or with his daughter, Delfina – who’s about to go through life being named after a place her dad begged to get away from. He’s faced with the unenviable task of playing for one of the biggest and most well respected and known clubs in the world for three more horrible, soul-destroying years. Whilst doing so, he’ll have to settle for earning the frankly pathetic sum of fifteen million pounds. Minimum. He’ll be forced to wear Liverpool’s shitty number seven shirt. The one previously worn by Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Ian Callaghan, and… Vladimir Smicer. He’ll have to turn up for work in his year old Lexus, train at a rubbish state of the art facility, and sign autographs outside the gates for stupid kids who are willing to forgive his every mistake. And then, when his unjust ban is finally over, he’ll be cajoled into playing in front of thousands of fans at one of the most famous grounds in world football once again.
Or he could just fuck off on strike.
But come on, cut him some slack, yeah? It’s not as if he’s brought any of this on himself.