Former villain Suarez is now Uruguay’s elder statesman

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Jul 2018 12:58:06




IT WAS mid-2006 when scouts for Dutch club Groningen travelled to Uruguay to check out a promising young striker called Elias Figueroa. Instead, they witnessed another teenage forward play like a man possessed and score a wonder goal. Groningen signed him up on an impulse and flew him to Europe. The name? Luis Suarez.While those roots may be little known, including an impoverished upbringing and yearning for a girlfriend who moved to Spain, from there the Suarez story is familiar.His relentless goal-scoring took him quickly to Ajax, then Liverpool, and now Barcelona, while along the way he also became Uruguay’s all-time top scorer.

Yet the same explosive style and win-at-all-costs character that turned him into one of the world’s elite strikers also made Suarez notorious for the wrong reasons.Most infamously, he was sent home in shame from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for biting an Italian defender — something he had done before in a seemingly impossible-to-control, bizarre impulse linked to his desperation to succeed.Four years earlier, Suarez deliberately handled a goal-line header against Ghana — then further offended against sportsmanship by wildly celebrating the ensuing penalty miss — to deny them what would have been Africa’s first ever World Cup semi-final.

“Both of those instantly iconic scenes were examples of Luis Suarez’s well-established on-pitch insanity,” sentenced one sports writer of a man the world struggled to understand.
During a brilliant but tempestuous club career, Suarez also failed to control his inner demons, facing sanctions for biting, diving, and racially abusing an opponent. Yet in recent times, the now 31-year-old has largely avoided controversy, while also netting more than 150 goals for Barcelona.


Indeed, Suarez comes to Uruguay’s World Cup quarter-final against France on Friday an all-together wiser and more mature, albeit lacking a bit of the spark and speed of his earlier days.“I have to be one of the calm ones, because there are a lot of youngsters here now in the squad, some for the first time. I must lead by example,” Suarez told reporters this week, relishing his transformation from wild child to elder statesman.