Uruguay vs. Ghana 2010: Luis Suarez, Hero or Villian?

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Uruguay vs. Ghana 2010: Luis Suarez, Hero or Villian?
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Luis Suarez will be remembered as as either a cheating villain or a selfless hero.

The debate is already raging on.

But when the Uruguayan striker deliberately handed the ball that prevented Ghana from making the World Cup Semi-finals, he cemented his role as this generation's Hand of God.

Let me recap it for you.

Ghana and Uruguay were tied 1-1 with extra time almost over. Ghana's last-gasp attempt to win was foiled twice, first legally when Suarez blocked a shot by Stephen Appiah on the line and the second time illegally when he swatted away a Dominic Adiyiah header with his hand.

Referee Olegario Benquerenca immediately pointed to the penalty spot and red-carded Suarez, who was inconsolable as he left the pitch. But despair soon turned to joy as Ghana's Asamoah Gyan hammered the penalty off the crossbar. It was the last kick in extra time.

When Gyan failed to score, Saurez celebrated as if he had fired home the winning goal.

And that's exactly what it turned out to be. Just minutes later, Uruguay shockingly won the game 5-3 on penalties. The result devastated the African continent that had hoped to see one of its teams write itself into the history books.

Now the shock is turning to anger as the realization has set in that Suarez deliberately cheated and his team was rewarded for it.

Suarez's penalty was ejection from that game and suspension for the semifinal against the Netherlands. But he showed no remorse and that infuriates those who believe he brought the game into disrepute.

Others see Suarez as a player who took one for the team, knowing full well that if a miracle occurred and Uruguay came back to win, he would miss the semifinal.

The miracle happened.

So, Suarez is being hailed as a hero at home and a villain in other parts of the world. Myself being a fan of Uruguay but also a sports writer, I found myself being on both sides of the story. With Ghana the overwhelming people's choice, Suarez's deliberate handball set off a firestorm of protest and debate.

What Suarez did is not unusual. Players deliberately handle the ball all the time and are punished for it, as Suarez has been. Suarez wasn’t the only Uruguayan who would have knocked the ball down. Jorge Fucile was just in front of Suarez. He tried to stop it with his hand but missed.

Players will do whatever it takes to win, especially when it a semifinal berth in the World Cup is at stake. But because Ghana was the sympathetic choice going into the game, the hand ball seems like a greater affront to the sportsmanship in the game.

Some are calling for the rules to change so that any deliberate hand ball that stops a ball from entering the net becomes an automatic goal.

Lost in the debate is the fact Gyan failed to score on a penalty, an inexcusable offence. Also lost in the debate is that when it came down to penalty kicks, Ghana missed twice. Uruguay failed to score only once.

So with the realization still settling in that Uruguay will be facing the Netherlands in the Semi-Finals, and Suarez suspended for that game, Africa and the world will be watching to see what drama ensues.

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