|Luis Suarez of Liverpool|
A strange weekend for those of us who follow the beautiful game with a passion bordering on the romantic as Manchester United lifted another league title, Alex Ferguson defied his age, Robin Van Persie scored an incredible goal and Luis Suarez defiled his sport. Again.
So let’s start with the action at Anfield on Sunday where Liverpool came from behind to snatch a 2-1 draw courtesy of the Uruguayan striker Suarez, a contender for player of the year in the Premier League this season.
Suarez popped up with a clinical header right at the death to snatch a point for Liverpool and dent Chelsea’s Champions League hopes for next season.
The goal typified everything that is good about Suarez. His competitive nature ensured he was fighting until the final whistle on Sunday.
His sense of positioning had him in the right place at the right time. His instinct got his head onto the ball at just the right moment to steer it past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal.
That header should have been the only reason to remember Luis Suarez for his contribution to the Reds vs. Blues clash on Merseyside. Instead it was long forgotten by the time the final whistle blew – seconds later!
The abiding memory of Suarez’s Sunday will revolve around his decision to bite the Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic after he was held back as they contested a ball inside the box.
The referee didn’t see the bite so there was nothing he could do about it when Ivanovic and the goalkeeper Petr Cech complained.
But this is the modern age – and television caught it all.
Within seconds Sky TV were replaying the incident. Within minutes it was all over Twitter and all over the world.
The pathetic actions of the Liverpool player were rightly exposed for all to see. And now it gets interesting.
On Sunday night his employers fined Suarez and his manager insisted no player is bigger than the club. On Monday, the FA charged him with violent conduct and admitted that the regulation three game ban isn’t sufficient in these circumstances.
The same day, Liverpool announced they have no inclination to sell him before his contract expires three years from now.
Ivanovic declined the offer to press charges. And the players’ union offered Suarez an anger management course. Sad.
Luis Suarez has been an accident waiting to happen for years. He bit another player during his time at Ajax.
He deliberately handled the ball on the line during a World Cup quarterfinal against Ghana in South Africa. And he racially abused Patrice Evra last season.
Sure, he is a great player, a really great player as his goal proved again on Sunday. But he is no role model. He is no character for kids to reference.
Contrast his demeanor on Sunday with the magnificence of Robin Van Persie as Manchester United clinched a 20th English title with a 3-0 win over the struggling Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
United won thanks to a hat-trick from Van Persie -- no saint in his time by the way -- and the second goal was quite something to behold as he volleyed a brilliant pass from Wayne Rooney past a helpless Brad Guzan.
That goal alone would make it a memorable season for the Dutchman, but the sheer joy on his face when he was interviewed after the first league medal of his career proved why football is the beautiful game.
So did the spring in Alex Ferguson’s step after his 38th trophy as Manchester United manager. Now in his 71st year, Fergie offered no hint at retirement as Old Trafford applauded their heroes.
Instead he joked, “Look at me – it’s taken 10 years off me today. It’s these tablets, they’re great!”
Asked about Van Persie’s stunning second goal, he said, “It’s the goal of the century for me. It was a marvelous hit, head down, over the ball, perfect timing -- a magnificent strike.”
Ferguson’s exuberance and Van Persie’s happiness were in such contrast to the actions of Suarez on our television screens just over 24 hours earlier.
The Scot was a man without a care in the world on Monday night, but he will have empathized with his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rogers on Sunday evening.
Many years ago Fergie had his own flawed genius in Eric Cantona, a man capable of great goals a la Van Persie and stupid actions a la Suarez.
Ferguson stood by Cantona and Liverpool will stand by Suarez. That’s the way football works, but it doesn’t make it right.
If Liverpool’s American owners really care about the game, if they really want to make an impact on English football they will sell Suarez now.
They won’t be short of takers and it will hurt them as a team, but it could make them as a club. Surely that has to count for something on Merseyside.
HURLING: Kilkenny won a big game without Brian Cody on Sunday which proves that his selectors Martin Fogarty and Michael Dempsey know what they are doing. But they are also neither brave nor stupid as Dempsey revealed when asked if either of them was prepared to wear Cody’s bainisteoir (manager) top for the game. Dempsey smiled as he insisted, “Neither of us are that brave that we’d wear the bib in his absence.” Cody may be back for the final but his stamp was certainly all over Sunday’s win.
GAA: Interesting story in Kerry, where a member of the traveling community has claimed he was verbally abused during a recent game between his club Listowel Emmets and Clounmacon. Eddie Joe Walsh complained to the Kerry County Board about the incident which would be classified as racism in any other country. The county board needs to take firm action in the case – and needs to be seen to take firm action.
SOCCER: Having secured two tickets for the game the other day, I am looking forward to the Ireland-England match at Wembley at the end of May. I am also intrigued by the suggestion from the English FA that 5,000 Irish fans will join me on the trek to London. I’d say the Green Army will take up at least half the stadium. And we’ll win the singing if nothing else!
GAA: TV caught the Luis Suarez bite on Sunday as it happened. The GAA can’t find any footage of the infamous bite on Donegal’s Paddy McBrearty during their recent NFL game. The Dubs star in question may be lucky that Sky aren’t even remotely interested in a National Football League game in Ballybofey!
SOCCER: Cork City were three minutes away from the Setanta Cup final on Monday night when Billy Dennehy scored the last minute goal that earned Shamrock Rovers a final date against Drogheda next month. Dennehy’s goal sent the Hoops through on the away goals rule but worse still -- he’s a Kerryman!
GOLF: Great win by Graeme McDowell in North Carolina on Sunday, night but what about the jacket he was presented with afterwards! The tartan made him look like a Bay City Rollers fan, and those old enough will know that’s nothing to boast about.
SOCCER: The official Twitter accounts for FIFA and president Sepp Blatter were hacked on Monday, and the results were hilarious as the hackers posted many of the allegations made against world soccer’s governing body as fact. Maybe they were.
SOCCER: Congratulations to Neil Lennon and Celtic on winning another Scottish title. Let’s hope next season is a bit more competitive on the domestic front for the Bhoys.
RUGBY: Joe Schmidt is interested in the Ireland coaching job. The IRFU seem to want the Leinster boss for the Ireland job. So just do it as the ad says.
HERO OF THE WEEK
CYCLING has had more than its fair share of problems of late, but Ireland’s Dan Martin has restored faith in the sport with his heroics in the Tour of Catalonia and his win in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classic on Sunday. Stephen Roche’s nephew is the first Irishman to win the Liege race since Sean Kelly, and he has a great future ahead of him in the saddle. His sport needs heroes and he may just fit the bill as far as Irish cycling is concerned.
IDIOT OF THE WEEK
LIVERPOOL striker Luis Suarez bit the Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on the pitch on Sunday, then showed us all he can play football with a great equalizer in the 2-2 draw at Anfield. He deserves credit for the goal – and a lengthy ban for the disgraceful bite. Suarez let his club down again on Sunday, and they really should get rid of him.