Paddy Power

Joey Barton: What I think of Luis Suarez, Liverpool and cheating in football

by Joey Barton | January 11, 2013

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Marseille footballer Joey Barton gives his opinion on Luis Suarez and cheating in football, exclusive for the Paddy Power Blog

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow.
The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing

– Abraham Lincoln

Luis Suarez’s shadow has been painted in the shape of a ‘diver’ and a ‘cheat’. Suarez’s reputation in England will stick to him like his shadow and there’s not much he can do to change it, this I know.

But he doesn’t need to worry about it because he’s such a good player. There are always going to be people in the game that don’t like him and no matter what he does to change their opinions, he’s doomed to fail. It’s not something he should worry about. If you’re crap at your job nobody bothers with you because you’re not a threat. It’s when you’re good that people try to give you stick, unsettle you and get you off your game. It’s a massive backhanded compliment.

I see it as a sign of respect. People wouldn’t do it unless there was an element of respecting my ability. Luis Suarez must feel the same. He’s happy to let his football do the talking because he’s an outstanding player.

I read plenty of the fallout from the Luis Suarez handball against Mansfield on Twitter, and elsewhere, and saw everyone going berserk about it. It’s one of those reactions where you’re expecting the referee to blow the whistle. You can see the look on Suarez’s face, he’s surprised he got away with it.

Suarez, Scholes and Gerrard

DIFFERENT RULES: Suarez against Mansfield, United’s Paul Scholes, and LFC’s Steven Gerrard

Suarez is a bad boy in the media’s eyes. That’s an angle they will push. If it had been Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard or Jonjo Shelvey, or someone the media looks upon favourably, we would have seen a different reaction.

Much of the anti-Suarez sentiment comes from his track record, more than the ‘foreigners ruining our game’ brigade. He’s one of the few truly world-class players we have in the Premier League. He’s been brilliant this season, but it’s live in person that you really appreciate him. His movement is outstanding and having not watched a great deal of English football in the last few months, I’d forgotten just how good it was and how hard he works.

I’ve had a couple of arguments with him on the pitch and he’s not a nice guy once the game begins.

Suarez is an angry man and wants to win for his team. There’s a fine line between being competitive and breaking the rules – which I know a lot about – and it’s playing on that edge that gives Suarez his spikiness and substance as a player. Without that desire to succeed, he wouldn’t be anywhere near as good. He’s a handful to play against and if you ask any defender he’s been up against, they won’t have enjoyed it. He works hard, gets stuck in and does the running of two men for his team.

Liverpool support Suarez through thick and thin

It’s interesting that every time he has been in trouble, everyone at Liverpool Football Club has rallied around to support him. To me, that’s a testament to what kind of a guy he is. He must be a good person otherwise he wouldn’t be getting that unequivocal support. Even in the aftermath of the Patrice Evra incident – rightly or wrongly – all the players were wearing the infamous Suarez  t-shirt for the Wigan game, regardless of their skin colour. It wasn’t just the white players or the English players, it was the whole team. If he was a bad guy, you wouldn’t get that level of solidarity. Certainly I wouldn’t be bothered for someone I didn’t want around.

The commentator, Jon Champion also played a part after the Mansfield incident. He called Suarez a cheat and although ESPN apologised, it was poor. His gut reaction was ‘Suarez is a bad boy’ and maybe he doesn’t like him, but in a position of influence like that, Champion can’t come out instantly and accuse a player like that.

Joey Barton Column2

TALKING TRASH: Tyler (pictured in the 80s) is still at the top of his game – Champion is a different story

I’ve found plenty of commentators who have opinions about me and prejudged me. Some commentators have an axe to grind with certain players whilst they’ll look favourably on other players and take the more positive angle. That has always been part and parcel of the game, but football commentary has lowered standards recently, so much so that I’ve taken to watching games on mute. I don’t listen to many of them because most commentators talk absolute nonsense. They talk on auto-pilot for the sake of filling time. Martin Tyler springs to mind as the best commentator out there, but without naming names, many of the others are really awful. I could name names, but I won’t.

He’s a national here, like Maradona

Suarez has previous when it comes to handball and this fans the flames in everything that involves him. The incident involving Suarez’s handball in the quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup against Ghana was dragged into the debate about last Sunday’s goal. Some people used it as a stick to beat him with, but I would have done the same thing a million times over, one hundred per cent. When it comes to the World Cup, I’d have no problem with it. It made him a national hero. He sacrificed himself for the team and to this day, Maradona’s handball goal against England only added to his god-like popularity in Argentina.

When it comes a preference for ‘winning by cheating’ or ‘losing with integrity’, it’s a tough call. Winning is so central to the life of a professional athlete, you can never be certain how you’ll react until that moment arrives. You spend all week training and winning is what it’s all about. Ideally, you want to ‘win with integrity’, but with the huge stakes involved, sometimes you’ll take drastic measures.  No-one dreams of winning by bending the rules or by cheating, but situations arise in the course of a game and people will gain whatever advantage they can.

You can gain a big advantage from testing how far the rules will bend.

As we are seeing with Lance Armstrong and the culture of cheating in cycling that has emerged, where there is huge prize money and huge contracts at stake, people are prepared to bend the rules. Using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) is one end of the scale and diving or looking to gain an advantage through unfair means is at the other end, but all of it is outside the laws of the game.

Joey Barton Column3

NATIONAL HERO: Suarez has previous, for Uruguay, while Fowler and Arsenal did try to do good

But there are good examples out there.

At Highbury in 1997, Robbie Fowler won a penalty after tumbling under a challenge from David Seaman. He pleaded with the ref not to award it. Seaman saved Fowler’s penalty, which Jason McAteer scored on the follow-up, but Robbie ended up winning a UEFA Fair Play award for his honesty.

Then there was also the goal Marc Overmars scored at Highbury in the FA Cup fifth round against Sheffield United in 1999, when a United player needed treatment. In that case Arsenal offered a replay which was accepted and that was fair.

On the basis of that game, without Suarez’s goal against Mansfield, it could have finished 1-1 and Mansfield have an argument. They’re entitled to point out that Arsenal goal as a precedent. If the game went on to finish 4-1 or 5-1, they’ve no leg to stand on, but they’ve got a point. Liverpool could have offered a replay.

I’m not proud of what I did against Manchester City

I cheat when I’m playing FIFA with my mates. Even if it’s just for a fiver or tenner, I’ll take them out on the edge of the box because I want to win.

The closest I’ve came to out-and-out cheating in a real game was at the end of last season for QPR against Manchester City. I knew I was getting sent off and I tried to get one of the City players sent off. I’m not proud of it, but I was thinking ‘this gives us the best opportunity of winning and the best opportunity of staying up.’ It was misguided, but at the time, it was simply doing what I thought was best for the team.

Suarez a big boy and a great player so he’ll be able to handle whatever gets thrown at him. If anything, he’s so mentally strong, it only seems to drive him on and I can’t imagine him getting too bothered by what people are saying about him.

I know the line Luis Suarez walks and it never changes. People never forget it and whenever something happens to him – or even myself – the past always gets dragged into it. It’s just the way it is. It’s the path we walk.

Would Liverpool fans settle for the same result on Sunday against Manchester United at Old Trafford? Damn right.

You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

– Johnny Cash, I Walk The Line

Money Back Manchester United v Liverpool and Arsenal v City

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25 Comments

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  1. Cristian Thompson said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

    “He sacrificed himself for the team and to this day, Maradona’s handball goal against England only added to his god-like popularity in Argentina.” – What!? Suarez is from Uruguay, not Argentina, dude.

  2. Cristian Thompson said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    ….unless you were still referring to Maradona. Perhaps you could’ve worded that a bit better.

  3. serahandika said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    Reblogged this on serahandika's Blog.

  4. Gary Jones said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    Spot on Joey

  5. Jesper said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

    Great column

  6. Matt Ramsay said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

    Well said joey, the English media love nothing more than a pantomime villan, and suarez is the ideal candidate (something I know you’ve experienced). At the end of the day, what matters most is that his fans and teammates support him. And as you said, if he wasn’t a world class player, no one would pay any attention.

  7. Alfu™ (@Alfu_) said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

    Am a fan of bad boy @Joey7Barton, he talks common sense, but still that does not change my mind on Luis Suarez.

  8. Upinsmoke said on January 11, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

    Eh, he was making an example of how a player portrayed as a cheat was worshipped in his homeland, not that Suarez shares the same nationality, read between the lines instead of nitpicking and twisting.

  9. chungu said on January 11, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

    Dull nitwit.he didn’t say he was argentine

  10. Mike said on January 11, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    Spot on Joey you legend!

  11. James May said on January 11, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

    Think you need to work on your reading comprehension skills. It’s worded correctly.

  12. Stuart Webb said on January 11, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with what you say, winning at all cost and putting body and soul on the line for the team it’s what all supporters want from a player. If your standing on the line defending and handling the ball could be the difference between winning and losing then you do it. Alternatively at the other end well I’ll let sir bob say it for me ” if your in front of the goal and not sure what to do, put it in the back of the net and well discuss the options later”.

  13. Tanya said on January 11, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

    u may be right joey but spare a thought for the Ghanaians fans and Mansfield fans whom Suarez brought pain to.

  14. Gab said on January 11, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

    Barton shows more insight than nearly all Fleet Street hacks.

  15. Colleen sanderson said on January 12, 2013 @ 12:11 am

    The comment makes perfect sense. Maradona was used as an example. Never once was there an indication Suarez is Argentinian. It’s all about grasping written English !

  16. withoutacapeRob said on January 12, 2013 @ 2:48 am

    What Suarez has done, bending or breaking the rules, is fine as long as he plays for the team you support. If he doesn’t he’s a “cheat” and a “disgrace.” It’s called hypocrisy, and football supporters are riddled with it.

  17. cripiter said on January 12, 2013 @ 4:27 am

    Its an example genius…..

  18. Doug Hunt said on January 12, 2013 @ 7:17 am

    Not sure of the comparison between yourself and Suarez though. One walks a fine line that drives him on to world class. The other crosses the line resulting in a career of wasted opportunities and talent.

  19. Abdulla Punjab said on January 12, 2013 @ 7:57 am

    Well said, Joey, Im a Man U fan and I remember fans and players rallying round Cantona after his Bruce Lee moment and Suarez has done nothing compared to that, at least we’ve got Howard Webb refereeing though, gives us a chance of getting Suarez sent off which Id love nothing more haha

  20. Stockportstag said on January 12, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    Barton, if Suarez had only dived once, handled the ball once to give a scoring opportunity, then I wouldn’t have a problem with him. He’s dived more than Tom Daley and handley the ball more than Matt Prior. There is no room in Football for these cheats.

  21. Paul said on January 12, 2013 @ 11:39 am

    Thanks for the comments, all. Please keep them coming. Paul (editor)

  22. Matt said on January 12, 2013 @ 11:50 am

    Very good read, always interesting when written by Joey – very honest as always.

  23. Alan Harrison said on January 12, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

    That two handed goalie type save in the 2010 World Cup finals was enough for me. The other team missed the penalty and went out!
    Suarez may be a great player, but he will NEVER BE A SPORTSMAN.

  24. Ridge said on January 14, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

    Very few argue that Suarez isn’t talented. But as the Lincoln quote says, a reputation will follow like a shadow, it does for all players. The vast majority of which, have a good reputation and are given the benefit of the doubt in these situations. But if you have a past littered with incidents of cheating whenever an opportunity arises and malicious challenges, your not going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

    Players like Joey and Luis, will need to move to pastures new, not so they can get fair hearing, but so they can have a fresh slate to tarnish all over again.

  25. Liam said on January 16, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

    There was nothing he could of done vs Mansfield, it bounced up and hit his hand, hes not going to say to the referee, “I handballed it” is he? No footballer would do that, and Brendan Rodgers said himself, if Suarez had owned up to the ref and said it was handball, he wouldn’t of played for Liverpool again.

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