Dec. 2, 2022, 9:33 a.m. ET
Dec. 2, 2022, 9:33 a.m. ETCredit…Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Luis Suárez doesn’t see why he should apologize. To some extent, he even seems surprised that anyone remembers. It’s, in spite of everything, 12 years for the reason that handball that broke Ghana’s hearts, that convinced a complete nation that the Uruguayan striker — within the words of a Ghanaian journalist hunting Thursday for some semblance of contrition — was “the devil himself.” Twelve years, so far as Suárez is worried, is ancient history.
There are a lot of reasons to malign Suárez. His racist abuse of Patrice Evra, for instance. Or the time he bit Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax. Or the time he bit Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool. Or the time he bit Giorgio Chiellini while playing for Uruguay. Suárez is just not, it’s fair to say, a straightforward player to like.
And it is barely natural, too, that there must be some lingering resentment not only over that play in Johannesburg in 2010, when he swatted away a ball just because it was about to cross the goal line, depriving Ghana of what would have been a winning goal in a World Cup quarterfinal, but additionally due to the best way he celebrated when Asamoah Gyan, the Ghana striker, missed the next penalty. Suárez not only prevented an African nation from reaching the semifinals of a World Cup for the primary time, but his glee in doing so was unconcealed.
And yet, strictly speaking, Suárez is correct. He has no reason to apologize. “I took the handball, however the Ghana player missed the penalty, not me,” he said Thursday. “Possibly I might apologize if I injured a player in a tackle and got sent off, but in this case, I took the red card, the referee said penalty. It’s not my responsibility to take the penalty. It’s not my fault.”
Suárez committed an offense and was suitably punished. That, to him, is the top of the matter.
In Ghana, it’s fair to say, they see it slightly otherwise. Gyan, for one, has admitted that he will probably be haunted by that missed penalty for years; there’s, he said in an interview for a British radio station this week, real “hatred” for Suárez in his homeland.
The anger is just not, most certainly, on the morality of Suárez’s intervention; Gyan has said that he would have done the identical had the roles been reversed, and doubtless the overwhelming majority of players would, too.
Likewise, Suárez’s celebration — just slightly too frenzied to not look gauche, based on most observers — was perfectly comprehensible. He took a risk and it paid off: A half-hour later, Uruguay advanced to the semifinals on penalties, and missed a World Cup final only after a 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.
No, the explanation Ghana remembers, the explanation the country still feels it’s owed an apology, is just not what Suárez did but what it cost. It has at all times been harder for an African team to succeed in a World Cup semifinal than it’s for a European team or, especially, a South American one. The continent’s 50 nations compete for just five spots on the tournament. The ten countries of South America get 4, in addition to a shot at a playoff. The 53 members of UEFA squabble over 13 places.
To get inside an inch of a World Cup semifinal, Ghana not only needed to win a round of 16 game against america and qualify from a gaggle containing Germany, Serbia and Australia, nevertheless it also needed to endure three rounds of qualification. It had done all of that after which, on the last, just when it thought it had made it through, it was all snatched away. Suárez may not feel there’s any reason for anyone to be searching for revenge when Uruguay and Ghana face one another on Friday, with a spot within the knockouts of the 2022 tournament on the road. Ghana, though, does. It has been waiting for this. It’ll try to understand it with each hands.