About Me

Football purist, realist and general sports fanatic. Interested in all aspects of the game, from all corners of the earth.

Monday, 31 December 2012

The Uruguayan Malandro

The ball is sent flying towards the Anfield sky as a result of Jose Enrique’s direct, almost primitive pass, arcing through the air with the resemblance of a clay pigeon in both its flight and its inevitable fate as an obsolete object. Luis Suarez is relentlessly fixated on this lost cause, he knows more than most what can come from these hopeless beings. Bisecting Newcastle’s central defensive pairing Liverpool’s number seven charges towards the precise blade of grass his target will drop onto at full speed. Frankly however, to collect the ball in this manner would be too easy, too predictable, unspectacular, everything Luis Suarez is not. Neck distorted, a gaze glued to the ball above him and the harrying Argentine defender Fabio Coloccini jostling alongside him for field position, the odds are stacked against him, yet Suarez succeeds, cushioning the ball onto his toe as if he had a pillow from the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton spreading out from his sternum to his shoulders. If ever a moment that highlighted how technically gifted one of the most controversial players in the game is this was it. If ever a moment that highlighted just how mentally gifted Luis Suarez is, this was also it.

Luis Suarez is a genius football fans must cherish. As he watched over the left shoulder he has carried half of his Liverpool teammates on for the past twelve months at the ball twenty foot in the air his mind was completely aware of what he was going to do next, unlike the rest of the 45,000 in the iconic stadium that evening. The passionate former Ajax captain has the mental capacity to rapidly decipher these seemingly impossible sporting puzzles with ease, a talent which separates him from all but a handful of footballers worldwide and which, over the past twelve months, has seen him begin to etch his name into the upper echelons of footballers the spectators of the Premier League have been lucky enough to watch. Without looking, the Pibe from across the River Plate knew (precisely to the inch) that by the time the ball had been magically transferred to his right foot Tim Krul would be waiting to tragically ruin his masterpiece. While capturing a millisecond’s glance of the Dutchman a message had been sent to El Pistolero's brain that Krul was shaping his body to spread out in order to maximise the area of his net he could protect. No sooner had the message been sent than the response was instinctively sent back to his foot. Innovatively, and ironically, the striker who some said couldn’t hit the target did not need too. When you possess the unique guile Suarez has in abundance you can walk the ball in at times.

All Luis has ever known was football, which partly explains his be all and end all attitude which infuriates opposition fans game after game but has cemented his status as a figure of reverence for those on The Kop.  At the age of four the future Uruguayan star was as comfortable and quick running with the ball as he was without it, testament to his father Rodolfo who himself had been a professional winger in Uruguay and Brazil. Suarez struggled to cope with both the separation of his parents and the poverty which was a result of it, with his mother Sandra left as the house’s sole earner and bearing the responsibility of supporting her seven children in the town of Salto on the Argentine border. Wilson Piriz, a Nacional scout who spotted Luis's blatant talent understood the boy lacked the maturity of others even at his age. "Life was difficult for him, he wasn't quite mentally ready. But his tough childhood made him hungry to succeed". 

A list of the virtuoso’s past misdemeanours flow effortlessly right throughout his career, beginning in his homeland where at the age of fifteen after a red card he head-butted a referee, while there was also a spell where he was more likely to be found enjoying the city nightlife than developing his talents on the training field. Two instrumental figures in Suarez’s life have kept him (somewhat) in check. His brother Paulo has placed more importance on his younger brother’s career than his own, firstly when Luis was spiralling out of control at Nacional as a youth (even physically beating him up on one occasion) and then when he moved to Holland despite being under contract at Isidro Metapan in El Salvador because the younger Suarez was struggling mentally as a result of living away from home despite starring in Amsterdam. "I gave up five months of football, but I felt he needed me". Sofia Suarez meanwhile is the reason her husband moved to Groningen from the Montevideo giants Nacional at the tender age of nineteen after earning his first domestic title in Uruguay, scoring ten goals in the process. “The only thing I thought about was being by her side again". Luis’ infatuation with his best friend ensured that as soon as a move closer to her in Europe (where she had been living for a year) was first mentioned he was 100% committed towards challenging himself abroad.   "That’s how my European adventure started. When I got the call to play in Europe I didn't think twice".

Had Suarez been born to the north in Brazil he would have been the chief Malandro, a figure of Brazilian folklore. The Malandro is completely free to roam around the pitch as he pleases adhering to nothing except his own intuition. He is a master of manipulation, capable of making the defender anticipate one action only to outrageously invent a new method of belittling him. Eventually you trap the deceitful master of fraud into a corner yet just as you begin to congratulate yourself for capturing him he has disappeared; carefully caressing the ball between your legs and swerving his body beyond you. The panna (nutmeg) is this Malandro’s favourite trick, as it highlights the effervescent peasant’s dominance over his contemporaries and plants a fertile seed of doubt into the defender’s mind rendering him utterly useless.

Luis Suarez entered 2012 as the most vilified player in Britain. However it’s integral to the game that people separate Luis Suarez the individual from Luis Suarez the artist. Suarez will continue to exaggerate contact, lecture the man in black on how to control the game and punch the ground in disdain when a less-gifted teammate fails to follow his unorthodox script, but to drain him of these features would be extracting the entertainment he brings to the Premiership. He struggles to understand why others are less intelligent than him on the pitch; the game comes easy to Suarez. One of the sport’s pioneering professors Anatoly Zelentsov, who worked alongside the great Valeriy Lobanovski during his stints at Dynamo Kiev, regularly ran players through various tests with the help of computers, like navigating mazes through memory in order to gauge attributes including coordination, reactions and of course memory. While these tests are extraordinarily difficult to the average human being sportsmen prospered due to their incredible mental capabilities. The Uruguayan would top the Ukrainian madmen’s class.

When spectators require entertainment there is no player in England capable of matching Suarez. He is compulsive viewing, possessing the cerebral brilliance to light up stadiums in ways we failed to even imagine on a pitch so frequently that it fails to surprise us nowadays as we turn to a new year. He has fearlessly carried Liverpool over the past twelve months with various acts of raw, pure beauty ranging from flawlessly lifting the ball fifty yards over a goalkeeper to embarrassing a defender with an inconceivable nutmeg before bending a shot with the outside of his foot past the helpless keeper with precision. Suarez, the footballer, is the type of player who inspires children to pick up a ball and dare whether it be out the back garden, on the street or in their sitting room. There is no more watchable player in England at the moment, no player single-handedly clawing his team to a respectable league position like the man people love to hate. Luis Suarez transforms the ordinary to the sublime so often that he has transformed the sublime to the ordinary over the past year and yet some still don’t regard him as a figure of reverence. They are the lost causes Luis will inevitably convert this year.