Luis Suarez is an honourable man, a proud man and an honest gentleman who cares for his family. That was the view expressed by Brendan “Don’t doubt my integrity” Rodgers in the late summer of 2013. I am not sure how much credibility was given to such utterances but they seem particularly daft remarks then and even more so in the light of subsequent events.
Someone found guilty of using comments deemed to be racist and then caught biting a second opponent, lacks honour, has nothing to be proud of and is far from being a gentleman. Of course the pigeons came home to roost in the World Cup and, when facing a big rap for another biting incident, he made out in his defence that his teeth had accidentally made contact with his opponent. On appeal, he then changed his plea and admitted he had deliberately bitten his opponent and swore it would not happen again.
His lawyer, who had defended his client’s innocence, even suggesting that FIFA had been stirred into action by the British press, was left looking like a burbling spouter of utter nonsense when Suarez pleaded guilty. He was left to claim the verdict would please the British press who are always criticising Suarez - conveniently forgetting that same press had voted Suarez Player of the Season just two months earlier.
Now we have the appeal against the sentence lodged with the Court of Arbitration and we can only guess at the decision. Will the body overturn the ruling made by FIFA - that honourable body that dispenses justice and keeps its fingers so firmly on the pulse of the game, run by that excellent Sepp Blather (Blatter)?
The ruling is due any moment, but the Suarez case has only helped to underline the growing lack of morality in the game. Barcelona, who have been a classic example of the truly beautiful game are only interested in getting a cut-price world-class striker. Never mind how he might disgrace them or besmirch a shining image: greed and the need to be competitive at the top level is all that matters.
We had the same last season when Arsene Wenger was only too eager to pay for Suarez, soon after the player had been found guilty and punished for his second bite. So Rodgers was not alone in trying to turn a blind eye to reality and indeed his predecessor, the nit-picking, carping Kenny Dalglish - easily the worst manager I have ever been involved in interviewing - was supporting his players wearing t-shirts backing the Uruguayan and he too finished with egg all over his face.
Of course there is an argument along the lines that a player attempts a potentially leg-breaking tackle and may miss three matches at worst, and such an act is far more serious than some little runt attempting to sink his teeth into you. But then football is full of such anomalies based on a flawed morality that it all balances out in the end, which of course is very rarely the case in reality.
We are also subject to the repeated observations former professionals on the television whose remarks during the match, include the relishing of the fact a defender gave the striker a little nudge just before he went up for the ball, so preventing the attacker getting in a clean header. The fact that it is against the rules, and against morality, is never questioned.
Then there is the foul in midfield, when a player threatens to break through, possibly giving his side a three-against-two advantage, as he homes in on goal, only to be hauled down. “He took one for the team,” says the ex-pro as if the booked defender has done something honourable. In fact the defender would have thought twice if a deliberate, cynical foul was rewarded with a red card. Now I can hear the protests: if you did that every time a player fouled, you would end up with three a side. But of course I am not talking about accidental or mistimed fouls but deliberate, cynical fouls attempting to negate the opposition’s advantage, by “taking one for the team” and presumably receiving a medal for his valour back in the dressing room.
Before another decade is out, we may see video technology playing a much bigger part in football. I see there are already suggestions for managers to be allowed to question a referee’s decision once in every half. It will happen and after watching the Test cricket over the past few years, and noting the injustices perpetrated in the series with India, who do not allow DRS, we know the game might be interrupted but the result will be fairer, which to my mind is the important factor.
Another Luis, albeit spelt differently, David Luiz, hit the headlines earlier in the summer becoming the world’s most expensive defender with a fee which reportedly could rise to £50m taking him to PSG.
Now the French club may have got the wrong end of the stick with regard to the new Fair Play laws introduced by UEFA. Those restrictions are purely financial, but one gains the impression PSG think they might pick up brownie points by having a suspect defender at the heart of their backline, so giving their opponents a fair chance.
I wonder what they thought when they saw Luiz floundering against Germany, unaware it seemed, as to whether he was on foot or horseback. Luiz, scorer of a great free kick in the previous round, claimed his ability stemmed from superior genes. One suspects he has had to revisit his antecedents after that hapless display - one of several during the competition.
People laud Jose Mourinho but selling David Luiz for £50m was one of his greatest achievements.
This article was first published in the Watford Observer on Friday, before the Court of Arbitration upheld Suarez's ban but ruled it only applied to competitive games.