The Handball Lynching: FIFA Mulling Longer Ban for Uruguay's Luis Suarez

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The Handball Lynching: FIFA Mulling Longer Ban for Uruguay's Luis Suarez
Michael Steele/Getty Images

After taking a night to sleep on Luis Suarez's last-ditch handball, which preserved Uruguay for their eventual shootout win over Ghana in Friday's quarterfinal, FIFA's disciplinary committee may have woken up still seeing red.

Red, like the card shown straight away to Suarez after he broke soccer's rules to push away the Ghanaians' last extra-time effort.

Along with that ejection, the punishment for Suarez's infraction extends to an automatic one-game suspension that will bar him from the Uruguayans' semifinal match against the Netherlands Tuesday.

Red, like Ghana's striking striped shirts. Alongside bold yellow, the Black Stars' kit bore two colors of Africa as the host continent's last hope, crushed by Suarez's punch.

Red, like a face contorted and blustering. Should the committee ban Suarez from an additional match—a move of unprecedented severity for the misconduct in question—such will be the soul of their intent.

They'll weigh the case sooner rather than later. In a media briefing, FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola explained that the committee will be "looking at that incident and taking a decision" on whether to exercise their option to further suspend Suarez for "unsportsmanlike conduct."

Whether Uruguay win or lose against the Dutch, they are guaranteed another game in the tournament. With a win, of course, they'd advance to the final, but a loss would still offer the consolation of the third-place match. Without further disciplinary action, Suarez would be available for either.

Against an enraged, indignant public outside of Montevideo, that might be a long shot.

While the Uruguayans celebrated, millions of soccer fans across the world went to bed angry Friday night. Ghana, in addition to their beloved "underdog" status against past Cup winners Uruguay, were the last standing representatives of the African continent.

Had Suarez meekly watched the Ghanaians' shot float past, the moment would have made history. The Black Stars would have been Africa's first World Cup semifinalists.

In reaching out to wreck it, he took full responsibility for his actions.

"This was the end of the World Cup. I had no choice," Suarez said after the game.

"I did it so that my teammates could win the penalty shootout."

Overcome by the emotion of his moment, Suarez covered his face as he rushed from the field after being ejected. When he came back, Uruguay's triumph was building.

"When I saw Gyan miss the penalty," Suarez recalled, "it was great joy."

For the millions who had adopted Ghana—including FIFA, possibly, considering the governing body's dedication to Africa despite the questionable qualifications of any African nation to host a World Cup—it was a moment of grave injustice.

To suspend Suarez for the rest of Uruguay's campaign, though, would be a breach of FIFA's integrity, unfathomably greater than the professional misconduct of a handball.

According to the Daily Telegraph :

"His [Suarez's] action is...contrary to FIFA's fair play code which states: 'Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure.'"

Had Suarez knocked in a goal to win the match for Uruguay, a la the original "Hand of God" goal by Argentina's Diego Maradona in 1986, that might be true—particularly if he had then admitted tongue-in-cheek to cheating thereafter, as Maradona did.

Had he been awarded a ghost goal by a biased linesman, as England's Geoff Hurst was in 1966, the fair play code might be relevant to the situation.

Had Suarez's punch been in any way a game-winner, it might deserve further scrutiny.

As a matter of fact, it wasn't. In a moment of great pressure, Suarez paid willingly the price of his own suspension, neither protesting nor attempting to avoid the referee thereafter—not for the mere prestige of a winning goal, but to keep his teammates and his country's cause going.

To give keeper Fernando Muslera one straight-on chance to stop Ghana.

To give world-class striker Diego Forlan the stage to lead his team in the shootout.

To give Uruguay the slimmest of odds at pulling through, even if it meant he wouldn't be going with them.

That sense of self and country is the distilled best of the World Cup's spirit—of a tournament which immortalizes its heroes and mercilessly forgets its bystanders.

To punish Suarez by laughing at his epic gamble, by manipulating his red card beyond its function and banning him from his rightful place at the end of Uruguay's campaign, would be a perversion of justice far beyond anything possible on the field of play.

Make him sit, then let him back in. It's in the rules and it's what he's earned.

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