In Spanish there's a phrase for what Suarez gets up to...

 

Given what happened over the past week, today's opposition and the controversy he generally attracts, many might expect Luis Suarez to take a rather northern European approach to all the negative attention at Old Trafford: keep his head down, do his job, try to make headlines for the right reasons.

That, however, isn't Suarez's background. On the contrary, someone who played a large part in the attacker's development has a very different suggestion. Daniel Enriquez is now the technical director of Nacional in Uruguay, and worked at the club from well before Suarez arrived there as a 14-year-old. It was Enriquez who had to tell the forward to change his ways after he bloodied a referee's nose, but now he adopts the opposite stance.

"I believe Luis Suarez needs to keep being himself, exactly like he is, because he's doing well," Enriquez tells The Independent on Sunday. "If he is going to be one of the best in the world, he needs to keep being what he is."

Were Suarez to undo Manchester United with the kind of moment that eliminated Mansfield Town from the FA Cup, it would feel all the sweeter for him – and not necessarily because of the unsavoury incident involving Patrice Evra which saw Suarez suspended for eight games for racial abuse. Rather for reasons much deeper.

Since that acrimonious day at Anfield on 15 October 2011, the term "cultural misunderstanding" has followed Suarez as a joke. But on another level the forward absolutely personifies another cultural difference that goes back much further. As all who knew him growing up attest, it is the key to comprehending why he gets involved in so much controversy without any apparent contrition – and why he will keep doing so.

When English settlers brought football to South America the sport seamlessly transported, but the Corinthian spirit with which it was formalised did not. Integrating the game into a different culture which was not so conditioned to respect authority, the locals from either side of the River Plate approached it differently.

Flair was favoured over physicality, innovation over order and mischief over fair play. This style was known as viveza criolla – "native cunning" – and became a fundamental building block of football in Argentina and Uruguay. The anthropologist Eduardo P Archetti likened it to the tango, and wrote that it involved a "capacity to cheat where necessary".

One of its core tenets is to "gain a psychological edge wherever and whenever possible" – all the more so if it is against your biggest rivals, as El Pais journalist Daniel Rosa explains: "There's an expression in Uruguay about how you want to win. If it's in the last minute and with a moment that enrages your opponent, all the better. That is viveza: knowing how to gain any advantage."

Pulling it off is admired as invention rather than abhorred as immoral. The ultimate example is Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal against England in 1986, but Uruguay has its own mythic moments – from Obdulio Varela unnerving Brazil in 1950 to the aggression of 1986.

This approach would have been ingrained in Suarez. It is reflected in the fact that, as Enriquez puts it, a handball or dive are barely worthy of mention in Uruguay. "It's not as controversial. Nothing would be said about the player. There would only be controversy that the officials didn't see it."

Many close to Suarez claim he is amazed by the amount of attention paid to such incidents. As far as he has learned, anything goes on the pitch – but it also stays on the pitch. He made that clear after one of his most infamous incidents, the bite on Otman Bakkal while at Ajax in 2010. "I always give 200 per cent in a match," he said. "He stood on my feet six or seven times – but that happens in football."

That attitude may explain some of Suarez's actions but it doesn't excuse them. In fact, many of those who know him say his specific mentality only exacerbates the problem. Three different people used variations of the phrase "real winner" about him – and not always positively. As his former manager at Groningen, Rob Jans, has said: "He cannot stand losing and sometimes he crosses the line."

"Always he wanted to win," Enriquez says. "He never wanted to lose and would take it very badly. In England, sometimes it seems a bit colder, more like a job, and that viveza isn't there. That's what we're like. We argue, we enjoy, we laugh and we cry all the same. It's part of our culture."

As is Suarez. Whether the consequences are odious or admirable depends on your point of view. Enriquez has his own: Suarez should stay just as he is.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam