Saturday, July 3, 2010

Suarez handball, continued

Apparently FIFA is considering extending Suarez's ban. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be absurdly stupid to leave the suspension at just one game.

The whole point of having punishments for breaking the rules is to deter players from breaking the rules. What punishment would be adequate to deter Suarez, or another player in his place, from doing the same thing in the last five minutes of the semifinal, or god forbird, the world cup final? Certainly a one match suspension isn't gonna do it. I'm thinking five at least, and probably more like 10-15 international matches. (In these instances, a ban that extends beyond the World Cup would mean the player would miss his country's following competitive this case those games wouldn't be nearly as important as the World Cup games, but a large enough suspension would keep most players from pulling a stunt like Suarez). If FIFA leaves the suspension at just one game, then I suspect we could see some other teams start playing with 11 goalkeepers instead of one toward the ends of their World Cup knockout matches.


  1. Wow, I was totally with you when I read this, but then I floated to this idea to a few other people and they HATED it. Counter-arguments included: this is the first time this has EVER happened given current rules, so it's not like players are hugely incentivized to do it or something; Suarez certainly deserved the red for an intentional handball but ti might not have been a COMPLETELY purposeful moment of deciding to cheat so much as a desperate, subconscious attempt to keep the ball out of the goal at all costs; creating more rules just creates more opportunities for refs or FIFA to screw things up and make more controversies. Please answer these each in turn (as I'm sure you're capable of, better than I could) so I can shut up my jerk friends who hate justice.

  2. point 1: yes, it's the first time it's happened, but this situation actually arises a lot less than one might think. That situation being: a shot at goal where a defender is on the goal line, near the end of an elimination game in the world cup. first of all, there are only 15 knockout matches played every four years, so it's rare for that reason already (the same logic doesn't quite apply so well in knockout club competitions, even the knockout ones, because there isn't the same sort of massive dropoff in the importance of subsequent matches). I suppose the logic does apply in elimination world cup qualifying matches? Anyway teams don't really defend on their own goallines very often....only on corners and other set pieces.

    The unprecedented-ness of the situation points equally in favor of FIFA taking a hard line. Since it's such an unusual situation, there's less danger of FIFA making some dumbass rule that will be abused in the future. Furthermore, the referee doesn't make this decision on the field; it's made by a committee afterward that gets to watch the replay as many times as they want, so screwing things up is even less likely.

    In any event, the best way to make sure it DOESN'T happen again is to give out a fat suspension. Another possibility is that players just don't really think about it, and that's why it's never happened. Well now they'll be thinking about it you can be sure of that.

    point 2: really, it wasn't completely purposeful?? REALLY? The ball was nowhere near his body, and he THREW BOTH HIS HANDS AT IT. Not really an instinctive subconscious-type reaction.

  3. I might be with Sarah('s friends) on the possibility that it was an instinctive response. He claims to frequently play goalie in practice and has "practiced that save." It all happened so quickly that I could buy that he was acting out of force of habit rather than intention. Furthermore, I recall reading that he was led off the field crying (corroborate?), and only changed his tune after the missed PK. That seems like an unusual reaction to a strategic play.

    All that said, I think the most persuasive argument for extra discipline is his unbelievable conceit after-the-fact:

    “The ‘Hand of God’ now belongs to me — mine is the real ‘Hand of God,’ ” Suárez said. “I made the best save of the tournament. There was no alternative but for me to do that, and when they missed the penalty I thought, ‘It is a miracle and we are alive in the tournament.’ Now we are in the semifinals, although I was very sad because no one likes to be sent off.”

    Can you penalize for being an ass off the field (unsportsmanlike conduct or something)? Sad he got booked but not that he got Ghana undeservedly eliminated, crushing a nation (and continent)?

  4. This isn't the first time this happened. According to an artile on espn, the US National Team won a qualifier for the 1990 World Cup on a very similar play. Actually, possibly a worse one since the article reads, "Trittschuh alertly dove and used his hands to halt the ball at the goal line."

    According to the article it was thought at the time that the US Team's chances of advancing without a win in this match were "hopeless." In the end, the single point from a tie would have sufficed to advance the US, given all of the other results...

  5. Can someone please explain to me how this handball was fundamentally different from other fouls in soccer? (Personally, I don't think that it was) And if it wasn't, then why are you trying to prevent only this type of foul from happening again?

    You say "The whole point of having punishments for breaking the rules is to deter players from breaking the rules." This is definitely not true in soccer. For example, if two players are fighting for the ball in midfield and one of them is holding the other's shirt because he is about to lose the ball and a foul is called, it will not deter the player from doing it again.

    Suarez broke a rule, got caught, and got the punishment according to the playbook. There is nothing in the playbook about a 15 game suspension...

    And my hunch is that this wouldn't be a story had Ghana scored on that penalty...