By Andrew Ronan
After his eagerly awaited return to competitive football against Real Madrid a fortnight ago, Luis Suarez was reminded of the repercussions of his bite on Georgio Chiellini at last summers World Cup. The mercurial Uruguayan has been omitted from FIFA’s 23 man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.
The decision from the games governing body will no doubt divide opinion. Some will say it is a just decision and the final punishment for Suarez for his disgraceful behaviour on that fateful day in Natal. They will argue that the winner of the Ballon d’Or has been rewarded for his behaviour on and off the pitch, and not just for his footballing ability – which is a valid point.
In Suarez’s corner there will be many who say one regrettable incident – which has already been dealt with by FIFA – has blackened the bewildering form Suarez showed for Liverpool and Uruguay this year. It is an argument which could go on and on, yet it won’t change the fact that Suarez is being overlooked by FIFA. Obviously, the bite on Chiellini is the deal breaker for FIFA; had it not have happened then Suarez is in the bookmakers top three or four for the award, no doubt.
With FIFA’s logic to exclude Suarez in mind, how high on their moral agenda do they place diving, feigning injury and any other run of the mill cheating we see every week across the footballing globe? FIFA can’t deny that nominees such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Angel di Maria and Sergio Ramos haven’t conned a referee at some point this year by going to ground without any real contact and holding their knee or ankle whilst screaming blue murder.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, along with his father, is due to face a court trial for unpaid taxes amounting to almost 3.5 million pounds. If Messi is found guilty, will FIFA ignore him this time next year for the 2015 Ballon d’Or? I wouldn’t imagine so. The difference between Messi and Suarez – as far as FIFA are concerned – is all down to image.
Messi is, other than perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, the good guy; he never dives or cheats referees. Suarez, on the other hand, does – and he likes to nibble on human flesh, to boot. FIFA know that any protestations from the pro-Suarez camp can be quashed by pointing out what he did at the World Cup. FIFA also know that Suarez is, in the eye of the majority of the football public, the pantomime villain – and that suited them perfectly when they excluded Suarez from their 23 man shortlist.
The most worrying aspect coming from his absence is that it shows how little importance FIFA place on the diving and cheating which takes place in practically every competitive football match played across the globe.
It seems that those who dive and cheat are winning.
FIFA’s – arguably – excessive ban dished out to Suarez for biting Chiellini, along with their ongoing anti-racism campaign, has pushed the issue of diving and cheating down a peg or two on the moral agenda. Either that, or FIFA just don’t care.