Mansfield Town's chairman has launched an extraordinary attack on Luis Suarez, declaring that Liverpool's directors were "embarrassed" by the handball goal that helped the club knock his non-league side out of the FA Cup on Sunday and claiming that the player gloated when he realised it would be allowed to stand.
John Radford's unabashed attack on the Uruguayan striker, included the claim that Suarez "enjoyed" what he had done – by kissing the same wrist with which he had controlled the ball to steer in Liverpool's second goal. "It was like, 'Hang on, I can get away with this,'" Radford, above, said. "The referees have a hard time but to do it deliberately and then celebrate is the hardest thing. To cheat, OK, but to cheat and then celebrate cheating, that is the worst thing you can do." Suarez's wrist celebration is actually a ritual he frequently uses.
There is sympathy within Anfield for manager Brendan Rodgers' view that Sunday's goal would not have created nearly as much of a stir had it been scored by any other player.
But the goal has taken the controversy around the Uruguayan to new levels, even more so after the broadcaster ESPN's decision yesterday to reprimand commentator Jon Champion for claiming Suarez had cheated. After Suarez scored the decisive goal and performed his post-goal celebration, Champion said: "That, I'm afraid, is the work of a cheat." The broadcaster has issued a public apology for Champion's comments – and by doing so added to the circus surrounding the goal.
A widespread view within football is that Champion was wrong on two counts to make his claim – because Suarez sought to withdraw his arm to prevent the ball hitting it and used his own trademark celebration in innocence having scored. But ESPN risks removing the best from its commentators, including the highly respected Champion, by publicly rebuking them for their opinions.
Even if Suarez had informed the referee Andre Marriner that he had handled, it would have made no difference because a free-kick could not have been awarded.
Yet Radford was incandescent. "They [Liverpool] have denied us a replay," he said. "I know that I'm big enough and daft enough to be able to stand up for the club and take it. [But] I'd like to take us forward. It's hurtful for the league we are in because we are playing at the likes of Luton and Grimsby and people like [Suarez] would [still do a thing like that].
"It was a killer [that] a professional would do that sort of thing to a non-league team."
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