Uruguay’s performance not to be sneered at

July 10, 2010

SOCCER-WORLD/URUGUAYUruguay’s achievement in reaching the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 40 years was greeted by a fair amount of sneering in some sections of the media.

The Luis Suarez handball incident — the Uruguay striker stopped a goal-bound shot on the line in the last minute of extra-time in their quarter-final against Ghana who missed the resulting penalty — which helped them into the last four led to suggestions that they should feel embarrassed or ashamed to be there.

After they lost 3-2 to Netherlands in Tuesday’s semi-final, Britain’s Daily Mail was still harking on about it, describing the Uruguayans as, among other things, “devious.”

It is as if no other player and or no other team would have done the same as Suarez, whose split section reaction was nothing more than instinctive.

As coach Oscar Tabarez pointed out, Suarez was sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty, as stipulated by the rules. “We couldn’t predict that Ghana were going to miss the penalty,” he said.

Unfortunately, the handball incident fits neatly with that old stereotype of cheating South Americans.

For the record, Uruguay were far from being among the dirtiest teams at the World Cup. They received no yellow cards at all in their wins over South Africa and Mexico and only one yellow against South Korea. (England failed to get through a game without a yellow card). In no game, did they receive more than three yellows.

Lots of other national teams have skeletons in the cupboard.

Does anyone remember the West Germany v Austria match at the 1982 World Cup? Or how England beat Argentina at the 2002 World Cup with a penalty awarded after what was described by many observers as a dive. Or how Scotland qualified for the 1978 World Cup with a penalty awarded for handball by one of their own players, photographed kissing his fist afterwards.

The English media, who, according to Tabarez, have led the attacks on his team, may do better to reflect on how a little-known South American country with only 3.5 million people has managed to reach the last four, something their own much-vaunted national side, with its millionaire Premiership players and accompanying hype, has not done since 1990.

PHOTO: A Uruguay fan covers his face with a national flag after watching the 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match between Uruguay and the Netherlands at a televised screening at Plaza Independencia in Montevideo July 6, 2010. Uruguay lost the match. REUTERS/Andres Stapff


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All the World Cup 2010 Games in South Africa will be streamed live at www.WorldCupTV.org 23:25

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Handling to stop a goal is considered to be the worst offense against the game of football, other than deliberate, career-ending damage inflicted to break an ankle or knew.

Some defend the gamesmanship practice of accepting the consequences of misconduct, in exchange for the benefit: deliberately risking being sent off, and even missing a match, in exchange for whatever the misconduct provides. In the Uruguay/Ghana match, it deprived Ghana of the winning goal in the final, overtime seconds of the match. The subsequent kick from the mark, whether scored or missed, is irrelevant to the alleged crime.

Let’s say that a man in civilian life hates his brother-in-law more than anyone else he knows. He also knows somethings about the law. One thing he knows might be that manslaughter carries a potential penalty of three to five years in prison, and negligent homicide carries a potential penalty of five to ten years. The man now sits in his car in his open garage, with the engine running. Behind him on the driveway, his brother-in-law sits on the ground, perhaps tying a shoe. The man quickly shifts his car into reverse and runs over the brother-in-law, killing him. The man is charged with manslaughter, gets a good lawyer, and is acquitted of any crime.

If paying a proscribed penalty justifies committing a crime, than the man who kills his brother-in-law is no more guilty than the Uruguayan Suárez, according to some people’s reasoning. Of all morality is negotiable, and preset penalties constitute adequate prices to pay for any malfeasance, then no problem with two Uruguayan players standing in the goal with their hands up to block the goal.

At least in this case, “no blood; no foul.” Eh?

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