Today the Netherlands beat Uruguay (3 to 2), to set up an all-European World Cup final (Spain plays Germany tomorrow). So, I realize that the article I am about to post is too late and possibly completely irrelevant but it is the best thing I have read regarding the so-called “Hand of God” goal line block by Uruguay’s forward, Suarez, in the last seconds of their quarterfinal game with Ghana. Had Suarez not used his hands to block the ball, it would have definitely been a goal for Ghana and Ghana would have been on the field today.
Suarez was immediately given a red card (to which he responded with the overused futbol move of, “What? Huh? What did I do?”) and ejected from the game. But not before he saw and celebrated the missed penalty kick by Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan. It was a terrible moment. It was hard to watch on TV. I can’t imagine how Gyan felt, though the images of him in tears, barely able to walk at the end of penalty kicks (which Uruguay excelled in) made it clear that it will be a bumpy road for him emotionally and psychologically after this. But superstars are superstars for a reason and one hopes that the mental fortitude that got him to this level will carry him past this single moment and the ensuing devastating loss (and here is evidence of that already).
Over at CNNsi.com, Joe Posnanski nails why this entire affair with the hand ball and Ghana not getting through to the semifinal feels so unfair:
If soccer’s rule was simply this, “If a non-goaltender touches a ball with his hand as it is about to go into the net, the goal counts and the player is automatically red carded,” then I would not have been bothered at all by Suarez’s hand ball. Then, it would be like goaltending in basketball — you don’t even think twice about goaltending. You goaltend, the basket counts. Sometimes, you get away with it. Sometimes, you get called for it unfairly. But all in all, the goaltending punishment perfectly fits the crime. It’s probably the best penalty in all of sports — so good that you never even think about it.
The problem with Suarez’s handball is that, I think, the punishment does not fit the crime. Not in this precise case. Now, most of the time, the penalty DOES fit just fine. You hand ball in the box, you are tossed from the game, your team has to play a man down, AND you give up a penalty kick which will usually result in a goal, anyway. That seems stiff and fair.
But in this case — because it was the final seconds (rendering the man-down thing irrelevant), because the penalty kick was SO pressurized, because the goal would have been decisive — the punishment was not nearly equal to the hand ball. This is why many people have said that what Suarez did was brilliant, and I would agree, but only brilliant in the way that finding a tax loophole is brilliant. In an instant and very human reaction to block that ball, Suarez found one of soccer’s loopholes.
If the goal had been allowed to count, nobody would have called that play brilliant.