Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling prove that football can wash away the worst of sins

They're vain, arrogant and sometimes even criminal. So why do we forgive footballers?

Share

Footballers are not easy to like. They're over-paid, over-indulged, mollycoddled man-babies. Many of them are also half-witted and arrogant. Some are also philandering scoundrels.

But I love football, and you can’t really love football without adoring footballers. For me, a Scotsman with no national team to get behind in Brazil, and my other team, England, on their way home, this World Cup is all about enjoying displays of individual brilliance and moments of redemptive glory.

The competition is now in its second week and there has already been plenty of heroism and magic. It has almost been mesmerising enough to make me forget about the alleged FIFA corruption, protests in Brazil,  and what on earth is going to happen in 2022.

The World Cup offers the chance for personal redemption, an opportunity for players to overcome obstacles and wash away old sins.

These are mostly young men who have spent the season whining or underachieving, falling out managers and teammates, conniving with agents to engineer a mega-bucks move elsewhere, or have spent time off the pitch starring in an unsavoury court case or two.

The World Cup offers a release from all this, a temporary atonement from the life of a ego-driven, one-man brand. You can see it on the faces when they celebrate. The elation is uncontrived, more explosive than usual.

For one summer every four years, world-class players come closest to experiencing the pure, uncomplicated joy they felt as children on the field.

So which players merit our admiration and forgiveness? If it’s physical redemption you’re after, look no further than Luis Suarez. I know, it still hurts, but only month on from knee surgery he returned to save his nation (and sink England) with two inspired moments.

Suarez’s transgressions are well-documented: the biting of Branislav Ivanovic and the racial abuse of Patrice Evra sit at the top of his charge sheet. But when he keeps on delivering dazzling goals, the true football fan is left marvelling in awe. As one England supporter admitted after Thursday night's game: “Suarez is class...he’s a master.”

England’s own players are far from masterful, but there was still some World Cup alchemy going on this World Cup. Raheem Sterling has emerged as our attacking talisman, the one who transformed normally dull and solid England into a side with flair and adventure.

Sterling was told by his club manager to “stabilise his life” last year, after appearing in court for driving offences, as well as the assault of his ex-girlfriend (he was later cleared). But after a fantastic season, and strong performance in the World Cup, his status as a “bad boy” has now been replaced with "rising star".

READ MORE:
Someone should tell Lady Gaga that porno-chic is out
Don't blame foreign players for England's demise at the World Cup
When will Britain admit to its alcohol problem?

There's also Yaya Touré, the Ivory Coast captain who moaned last month that he wasn’t being paid enough attention by his club, Manchester City. (To borrow a phrase from Mad Men’s Don Draper: “That’s what the money is for”.)

Despite my best efforts to begrudge him, there is something so compelling about the laughably casual ease with which Touré wanders past opposition players.

Now take Lionel Messi: the best player ever to play the beautiful game. There is no fairy-tale back story. He grew up comfortably in the suburbs of Rosario before moving to Barcelona as a teenager. Less sympathetic still, Messi’s father remains under investigation over tax evasion to the tune of £3.2million. But I really I don’t care about Messi’s tax affairs.

Messi exists only to play football. He is there to electrify the crowds as he dances toward the opposition goal, to rouse that weird, primitive part of yourself which has nothing to do with judgment, priorities or logic.

In truth, the reasons I adore particular players are often flimsy. They are mostly to do with the way they caress the ball or pick out a pass.

But what happens on the pitch is a realm suspended from the real world. It resists all the ordinary reasons we might make assessments on morality or character.

Footballers are not easy to like. They are not supposed to be liked. But they exist to be adored.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bill Cosby dismisses the allegations that have demolished his lovable TV persona as ‘innuendos’  

Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

Rupert Cornwell
UK Border Control  

Do you think I'm feckless? I worked for two years in the Netherlands

David Ryan
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin