FIFA World Cup 2010: Is Uruguay's Luis Suarez a Cheater or a Genius?

Jack DoyleCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 02:  Luis Suarez celebrates victory after a penalty shoot out during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Quarter Final match between Uruguay and Ghana at the Soccer City stadium on July 2, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

How could a man who was sent off for a handball in the penalty box during the final seconds of a World Cup quarterfinal match be so happy afterwards?

It turned out that Uruguay forward Luis Suarez's handball, called "boneheaded" by many when it happened, saved his country a goal after Ghana missed the ensuing penalty kick.

Everyone knows what happened next. Uruguay came out on top in the penalty shootout by a 4-2 margin.

The idiot is now a hero.

But another adjective has come up in the discussion: "cheat."

A hot debate circulating in football right now is whether Suarez's handball was cheating, and if rules should be put in place to handle controversies like this.

As a result, the issue has led one writer at the Daily Mail—one of the UK's biggest newspapers

—to propose instituting a "penalty goal" that would automatically give team's a goal in these types of situations.

But is that really better than what is in place right now?

The Uruguayan striker prevented a goal-scoring opportunity and was sent off for it, just as the rulebook says should be done. Ghana received a penalty kick to make up for it, just as the rulebook says should be done.

What am I missing here?

This is not a case of cheating. The game has clear rules in place that deal with these types of circumstances.

What if Suarez had taken down a Ghanaian player in the box with nobody—not even a goalkeeper—between him and the goal? Do you award Ghana with a goal because they would have obviously scored?

As of now, the rulebook says no, and I agree with it.

Although I don't recall any other sports with specific violations like handballs, they have similar rules for thwarting scoring opportunities. American football doesn't give a touchdown when a safety commits a horse-collar tackle on a player five yards from the end zone. Hockey doesn't award an automatic goal when a defender trips a forward on a breakaway.

The point is that there are laws of the game to handle Suarez-like situations. The attacking side is supposed to get the advantage in most cases, but an automatic goal would be too extreme. The team already gets a penalty kick and a man advantage for the remainder of the contest.

But Uruguay only had to play a man down for a few seconds!

Ah, indeed they did. The timing of the incident might have as much to do with the controversy as the actual handball did. But just because it happened so late doesn't mean Ghana—or anybody else for that matter—should get a gimme.

It was a cruel way for the last African side remaining in the World Cup to exit, but they had three opportunities to win; in regulation, the extra time penalty kick, and the shootout. They failed in all three.

An injustice? Maybe.

But Uruguay suffered the consequences and overcame the obstacles to emerge victorious.

Whether or not this instance will lead to a rule change remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: FIFA will have its hands full with complaints this summer.