Before he was “Suárez the biter” he was “Suárez the cheater.”
It was the 2010 World Cup and all of Africa had come together for the first World Cup they had ever hosted. The group stage hit the African celebration hard as of the five qualified African nations, only Ghana advanced. But they were not deterred, as the entire continent, one that had not experienced such hope and recognition in football before, came together to cheer on the remaining African nation.
With the score tied at 1-1 into extra time a free kick allowed Ghana some chances from the box. With the keeper off his line, Suárez stood resolutely in front of the goal forcefully rejecting a scoring opportunity, deflecting it back into the box to Dominic Adiyiah’s head. As the ball went past the hand of the keeper and another teammate on the goal line, Suárez dug deep into himself and captured a moment from his brand of play, something not taught in an academy or not found in professional football, but something only a poor boy from Montevideo could understand.
It is important to understand that there is no “young Suárez” or “old Suárez.” There is no “poor Suárez” or “rich Suárez.”There is only “Luis Suárez”. So when Luis Suárez stepped onto that pitch, he was not “the Uruguayan National Team Player Suárez” or the “Eredivisie Top Scorer Suárez” but he was that street sweeper in Montevideo from a broken home who met the love of his life at age 15. He was that boy that would do anything to get to Europe to be with that girl again and he was that boy that found that football would get him there.
When Luis Suárez plays football, he is not playing a game or going to work but he is playing for his life. The life he picked up coins off the street to build. The life that he trained endlessly to achieve. The life that he will not allow anything to get in the way of. And the life that he ultimately started on the streets of Uruguay where there are no rules and nothing is fair.
So as Luis Suárez saw that ball coming through the air past his compatriots, threatening to end his first ever World Cup, he didn’t have to think twice as he raised his hand and swatted it out of the air. As he walked the lonely walk of a red card out of the stadium, he stopped at the sideline and turned to look on as Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty kick, vindicating Suárez’s action but condemning him in the eyes of millions of Africans forever.
“The Hand of God now belongs to me” – Luis Suárez
Chadband, Ian. “World Cup 2010: Uruguay’s Luis Suárez Revels in Second Coming of Hand of God.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 3 July 2010. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/uruguay/7870586/World-Cup-2010-Uruguays-Luis-Suarez-revels-in-second-coming-of-Hand-of-God.html>.
Marcus, Jeffrey. “Uruguay Trades Penalty for Chance at Victory.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 July 2010. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/sports/soccer/03ghanagame.html?_r=0>.
Thompson, Wright. “Portrait of a Serial Winner.” ESPN. ESPN, 27 May 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/10984370/portrait-serial-winner-luis-suarez-soccer-most-beautiful-player>.
“2010 World Cup’s Most Shocking Moments #2 – The Hand of God (Defensive Edition).” YouTube. BBC, 17 Aug. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgHhYgQnCPg>.