“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” —Abraham Lincoln

“Oh, thank you very much I’m glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps maybe a little… Hamlet?”

“No. I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony I say with conviction. “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty. In form, in moving, how express and admirable. In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a god…”"

“Surely you don’t see your species like that do you?!”

“I see us one day becoming that, Q. Is that what concerns you?”
—Picard and Q, “Hide and Q”, Star Trek: The Next Generation

I’m not really a humanist, because I know—perhaps more than most in my role as a football blogger—that people are dicks. But I also fervently believe that this fundamental fact about ourselves should not be viewed as an unshakable predicate for which we should make contingencies, but rather an odious condition against which we should be in perpetual struggle.

The going view right now in several quarters is that Luis Suarez did what any good player should do by scoring a winning goal with his the aid of his hand; break the rules and try to avoid getting caught in order to help his team win. The arguments in favour of this are broad, if not deep. Several hint at a kind of prejudice and call out the hypocrisy in Suarez being called out for committing a deliberate handball while others are not. Others point the English media’s need to have a ‘pantomime villain.’ Some others attempt to paint the handball as incidental, rather than intentional, which only the most generous analysis upon several repeat viewings could conclude. Still more argue that because the vast majority of other players would do the same as Suarez, it makes it okay. Some attempt a shot-gun approach, and dump everything in the mixer in the hope something will wash away the completely normal sense of injustice that follows the realization a person deliberately broke the rules to help win.

Think of this in the context of any other rule-based situation in real life, even in situations far more harmless, and you see the ridiculousness of it. Stealing candy from the corner store is okay because a lot of kids steal, and adults steal but they never get punished, and it’s not really stealing because corporations are evil, and the store owner makes most of his money from cigarettes, which is also wrong. That dodging and swerving is simple equivocation. But it is not vindication. Suarez is certainly not special in his behaviour as far as footballers go. But that in and of itself does not make the handball any less wrong, or any less risible.

That’s true even though none of this really matters in the fullness of time. Mansfield’s hopes and dreams surely didn’t rest on an FA Cup tie, and football ideally is a game that’s supposed to be fun. But the depressing familiarity of the football partisan going to elaborate lengths to argue that a clear wrong is somehow made right because the wrong-doer plays for your tribe hints at something more darkly universal. Not simply that we’re dicks—which we intractably, hopelessly are—but that we’re fine with it, particularly when it gives our little group an advantage.


Canadian Kyle Bekker signs MLS contract.


Tevez wants to be a mentor to teammate Balotelli.

Rodgers defends Suarez, says it’s not his job to own up to handball.

Lampard will leave Chelsea in the summer.

Ahead of FA Cup tie against Everton, Cheltenham reports items stolen from training ground.


Napoli show interest in Balotelli, would rather add to team than sell Cavani.

Juventus confirm interest in Drogba.

La Liga

Vilanova thanks fans for support.

Madrid’s backup keeper Adan feels disrespected by media.

La Liga weekend in review.


Dortmund’s Subotic and Bender extend contracts till 2016.

Schalke not worried about Holtby vacuum, Draxler an ideal replacement.

Bit and Bobs

Blatter under fire again, this time for racism comments.

James Horncastle believes Kevin-Prince Boateng’s decision to walk off the pitch was the right one.

Ronaldo to study advertising abroad.

A cheeky backheel volley by Benfica’s Gaitan.

Comments (16)

  1. this,
    “Tevez wants to be a mentor to teammate Balotelli. ”
    made me spit out my shreddies.

    Hopefully he means on the pitch only. Balotelli with Tevez’s desire would be a wicked weapon of defense destruction.

  2. It’s on the referee to call Suarez’s handball. Maybe if he could watch a replay the goal would’ve been called back. But he can’t, because we haven’t invented video cameras yet.

    • I guess by this logic, its ok to rob a bank…because its the cops job to stop and catch me

      • I think you’re taking it a bit far. It’s a football game. If Suarez plays poorly, it’s his coach’s job to discipline him. If FIFA thinks the official made the wrong decision, they will be the ones to discipline and possibly punished for their mistake.

        I think hand-balls always become contentious subjects amongst footy fans because, at the risk of being inflammatory, it’s the only rule that most footy fans THINK they understand.

        And to be perfectly frank, they actually DON’T understand the law regarding hand ball, they just think they do.

        If, IN THE OPINION OF THE REFEREE, the handling of the ball is not deliberate and/or the hand was in a natural position at the time of contact, then there is no foul. You’ll notice the language of “In the opinion of the referee”, which is FIFA’s way of taking power away from the arm-chair referee and putting the responsibility of calling the match where it belongs; in the hands of the referee.

        With all due respect to all the armchair match officials out there (and there are many of them, I assure you), until you put the time, effort and dedication into becoming a FIFA sanctioned national level referee (which requires YEARS of effort, and is arguably more difficult and less rewarding then being a professional footballer), you are entitled to your opinion. Just don’t expect FIFA, any Football association or any match official who is worth his salt to give a damn about it.

        For better or for worse, FIFA operates under a single golden rule: The call on the field stands, and the results of a match are final once the last whistle is blown. Otherwise, football would become a lawyer’s game where people “Negotiated” results rather than earning them on the pitch.

        If you don’t like the call, that’s your right. But until you prove yourself worthy of being a top level match official, then your opinion stays in the peanut gallery where it belongs. As much as that might be a blow to the ego of die-hard fans who seem to think they have a right to govern the laws of the game, they don’t. If you’d like to have that right, then you’ll have to earn it like the match official in charge of this match did.

        Personally, I don’t think Suarez’s hand was in a natural position when the ball struck it, but I’m not the match official in charge of this match, so I realize my opinion is essentially worthless, and I don’t feel the need to share it as a result.

        Those who can, do. Those who can’t criticize and complain.

        (This is where you go off about how FIFA is a joke because they don’t agree with all of your opinions. We have a rule amongst Referees. If everyone agrees with the way you called the game, then you’re doing something wrong.)

      • It’s rule enforcement. If the rule isn’t enforced, the rule will be broken.

  3. Oh, and please don’t do a story later today about Blatter and his complete inadequacy regarding racism. We know it. We know what you’ll write. We know what you’ll bring up from the past, handshakes and whatnot. Just don’t. Today’s a good day. Don’t spoil it.

  4. Really? You are comparing a handball goal in footy to stealing at the corner store or selling cancer inducing cigarettes?

    • It was used as an example to illustrate the problems of moral equivalence arguments, not as a direct comparison.

  5. “But the depressing familiarity of the football partisan going to elaborate lengths to argue that a clear wrong is somehow made right because the wrong-doer plays for your tribe hints at something more darkly universal.”

    The clear wrong is made not wrong because the men charged to officiate the match saw it, and decided it wasn’t wrong. If the play had been whistled dead for handball, I wouldn’t have complained. It doesn’t make Suarez a “villain” because it wasn’t called, any more than if he had scored from an offside position.

    And nobody can say definitively that this goal was the difference between a Liverpool win and a replay anyway. Maybe the game finishes 1-0 instead, or someone else scores for Liverpool, or it finishes 5-5.

    • I think it’s important to note that Suarez is a football “Bad boy”. If a football “Good boy” did the same thing, would the backlash be the same?

      Once again, these are matters of public opinion.

      Games should be officiated in a vacuum as far as reputation and public opinion are concerned. Referees should endeavour to make their decisions based solely on what takes place on the pitch DURING THAT GAME. Past games, history and reputation are not governed by the laws of the game.

      Fans are allowed to make emotional decisions. Referees should train themselves to control their emotions and make RATIONAL decisions that are free of emotional bias.

      To be frank, I think a lot of the criticisms of most any decision made in football officiating are based largely on emotional bias as opposed to rational and objective analysis. Sure, some people can make long and protracted arguments to try to camouflage the truth of their emotional bias, but it is there all the same.

      Few people are capable of that kind of objectivity. Fewer still of those people become match officials. Good referees are hard to find as a result, but the BEST referees go largely unnoticed because a good referee is, by his/her very nature, largely invisible.

      • “I think it’s important to note that Suarez is a football “Bad boy”. If a football “Good boy” did the same thing, would the backlash be the same?”

        Think back to Thierry Henry vs Ireland in the last WCQ cycle. He is def considered a football “good boy”, yet he was villified for his handball goal that stopped Ireland from qualifying.

        Everyone is so anxious to portray this as some kind of anti-Suarez (or even anti-South American) thing, but I think that misses the point. Part of the outcry comes from the context that makes some of these calls so contentious – for the cheated team these are massive games/results that ended up hinging on the “goal”. Everyone has seen a handball leading to a goal before, but when it eliminates an underdog team from WCQ or a major (to them) FA Cup tourney, there is an added sense of injustice because the established power used cheating to get an undeserved result. In the Suarez incident, Liverpool cheated to get a result against Mansfield Town – a lower tier underdog for whom this FA Cup game was probably the biggest competitive fixture in years. That is where the otucry comes from IMO. I’ll be honest – Suarez’s PR baggage doesn’t help the situation, but I don’t think you can pin this solely on his image problems.

  6. Oh, and just to throw a monkey wrench in this whole “Right and wrong” debate on hand balls…

    Do you know how easy it is to kick a ball at someone’s arm?

    If the handball rule was as simple as the ball making contact below the shoulder and the calls were all purely black and white, then players would spend hours practicing baiting defenders into shifting their balance so their arms leave their sides and then kicking the ball at their out-stretched arms.

    Much like simulation and players who go down easily looking for free kicks, that kind of conduct is not in the spirit of the game, and the law is what it is to help discourage that kind of trickery and short-cut taking.

  7. I think it’s important to note that Suarez is a football “Bad boy”. If a football “Good boy” did the same thing, would the backlash be the same?

    It was – actually worse – when Thierry Henry handled France into the World Cup.


    • And Thierry Henry isn’t considered a football “Good Boy” anyway…by most accounts he’s an arrogant dick (not to mention he’s *gasp* foreign). He just doesn’t have a rep as a cheater.

  8. What keeps this going is that for writers, Suarez and trouble is a chance to construct the compelling narratives that drive interest. That is what has from early on created football from the spectator’s perspective.

  9. To me it really looks intentional. And I saw Brendan Rogers in an interview saying that since it wasn’t intentional, there is now foul. Even if we assume it’s not intentional, if a defender does the same thing and has his arms at his side, and he STOPS a goal from being scored, a penalty is given almost every time. And if the penalty isn’t given, the manager throws a fit. I don’t know a lot about Mr. Rogers, and he seems to keep his cool pretty well, but I’m interested to see what will happen if a handball in the box goes against his team in a crucial moment.

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