Football has and will always be a completely moral-less sport. We often use words such as pride, passion, dignity and honour to describe certain profiles in the game, but as Jose Mourinho will quickly tell you, all that really matters is whether you win, lose or draw.
Never has this been more prevalent than in regards to Luis Suarez. Exactly one year and one day ago, the Liverpool assassin received a ten match ban for biting Cheslea’s Branislav Ivanovic. Although the incident lacked any real viciousness or risk of injury, it is still one of the most disgusting and disgraceful, not to mention stupid, acts I’ve witnessed on a professional football pitch.
Fast forward to the present day however, and you might be forgiven for forgetting that the 27 year-old was once the Premier League’s leading public enemy; slaughtered in the press, heckled on the pitch and widely condemned by English football’s most forefront figures.
It wasn’t just the Ivanovic bite, it was the racial slur aimed at Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in October 2011, it was the hand-ball on the line against Ghana in a World Cup quarter-final and the subsequent obnoxious celebrations as he crushed the dreams of an entire continent, it was the Cannibal of Ajax moniker from a prior bite-based incident during his four-year Eredivisie stay, it was the self-admission that he’d sell his own grandmother for a goal. All cases of the striker’s lust for controversy amalgamated together, forming an image of Suarez as perhaps the most intrinsically evil footballer the Premier League has ever seen. Even strong contingents of the Anfield faithful were calling for him to be moved on last summer, in order to save the club from further embarrassment.
Back in February, Nanny Suarez claimed the Liverpool forward had evicted her from her house. As unfounded as those claims may be, if they were revealed in February 2013 rather than February 2014, they would have undoubtedly caught more attention from the British press, and subsequently the Premier League public.
But since his biting ban, the Uruguay international has been in English football’s good books. He’s never apologised to Patrice Evra, he’s never apologised, formally and publically at least, to Liverpool for trying to force a move away last summer. But when you’ve averaging a goal per match and setting the Premier League alight with your talismanic attacking displays, it appears that nobody really cares.
Suarez supporters will argue that the striker has let his feet – rather than his actions – do the talking this season, as if there’s something dignified about the manner in which he’s bounced back from the widespread condemnation he received last summer. But this is just a figment of our imaginations – Suarez was a world-class player before he tried to nibble a chunk out of Ivanovic’s shoulder, and he’s maintained his reputation as one since. The fact he’s been even more prolific this season isn’t a self-designed penance for his former sins.
Time heals all wounds, but in the world of football, form is a far quicker solution to make people forget. Having claimed a ridiculous 30 goals and 12 assists in 30 league appearances this term – in turn leaving Suarez at the top of the Premier League’s goals and assist charts – the Uruguay star is now a shoo-in for the Player of the Year award.
His performances on the pitch certainly deserve it; even Patrice Evra has felt compelled to vote for the Liverpool goalscorer. But those electing Suarez in this season’s poll will be the same that refused to last year, the only difference being that Suarez has lasted an entire campaign without finding some way to completely appall them.
Suarez isn’t the only glaring example of football’s amorality. Just take a look at QPR’s Joey Barton. Our sport struggles to accept the concept of a gay professional, yet a midfielder who has stubbed out a cigar in another player’s eye, was once fined for assaulting a 15 year-old Everton supporter on a pre-season tour and received a four-month suspended sentence after leaving a team-mate unconscious with a detached retina from a training ground bust-up, has gone on to ply his trade with three Premier League clubs and represent the England national team.
Even QPR didn’t want Barton around, after he saw red for trying to fight no less than three Manchester City players during the final day of the 2011/12 campaign. Mark Hughes declared he’d never play for the West Londoners again, even seeing fit to loan him out to Marseille for a full season. That was until Rangers dropped down to the Championship, and Harry Redknapp quickly realised that a player of the 31 year-old’s quality could be their ticket back to the top flight.
Likewise, it wasn’t long ago John Terry was branded as the disgrace of the nation after being found guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand by the FA. But two years and one campaign of impeccable form later, and the vast majority of England fans believe the Chelsea veteran should be representing us at the World Cup in Brazil.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take the moral high ground. I’m as guilty as the next man when it comes to letting performances on the pitch shape my views on certain players, regardless of their prior tribulations. Likewise, footballer or not, everybody in this world deserves a chance at redemption.
But only within the realms of the beautiful game can a skill which would have no use in any other walk of life be seen as a positive form of salvation. Football is like democratic capitalism. On the surface, it seems liberal, caring and honorable enough, yet scratch a little deeper, and one quickly realises that profit and loss are the only true constants, the only real barometers our utility is judged upon.
In terms of quality, the Player of the Year-elect is one of the best the Premier League has ever seen. But in terms of his moral compass, his attitude and behavior, he’s undoubtedly one of the worst. Unfortunately, being a nice guy has no bearing in the world of football. Making your team win however, certainly does.