Saturday, July 03, 2010

Hand of God or Hand of Devil

World Cup Football, 2010
2nd Quarter-Final, Uruguay vs Ghana.
Last minute of Extra-Time. The sores are level at 1-1 after 120 minutes of struggle in which the teams dominated in phases. Ghana make a last ditch effort to score the winning goal. Off a free-kick, the ball floats in dangerously in the penalty box. After multiple hits around the penalty box it is finally going into the goal, with the goal keeper beaten. But before the ball could cross over the goal line, Uruguayan player Luis Suarez blocks it with his hands and prevents it from crossing over. A deliberate handball and a foul. Suarez is immediately shown the red card and Ghana awarded a penalty. Ghanian striker hits the crossbar and the ball goes over. And the referee blows the whistle. The game went into a penalty shootout which Uruguay won 4-2 and proceed on to the semi-finals.
The Ghanian players were gutted and so were their supporters, the entire African continent. They had been denied the chance to become the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals by the thinnest of margins. The Uruguayans were celebrating.
The focus though was on one man, Luis Suarez. No one is quite sure whether what he did was right or ethical. It was certainly legal. He has probably made the greatest self-sacrifice in footballing history. But in doing so ensured that his team still had a chance. And it was a chance which the Uruguayans did take. Suarez did commit a foul (a deliberate one) and was duly punished also. Ghana failed to capitalise on that.  He didn't get away with cheating. He is going to miss the semi-finals but has ensured that the rest of his team doesn't.
Ghana maybe feeling cheated. Uruguayans are celebrating. But the neutral observers have been left divided. Suarez's act is in the proper grey area. He was punished for a crime but his team survived because of his crime. In one sense the perfect crime and the ultimate self-sacrifice for the greater cause.
It certainly was the Hand of God for the Uruguayans but "Hand of Devil" for all Africa.

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