Alan Hansen: Players entitled to play on unless whistle is blown
Published 07/01/2013 | 05:00
You can take the moral high ground as much as you like when observing Luis Suarez's winner at Mansfield, but no footballer would ever ask a referee to disallow his goal.
It's never happened in the history of the game. It will never happen in my lifetime.
What exactly was Suarez supposed to do? Run to the referee and tell him it hit his hand? His team-mates would go berserk – and his manager wouldn't be too impressed either.
The first thing to make clear is Liverpool's second goal in the third-round cup tie wasn't a deliberate handball.
There's no way Suarez has moved his arm to control it. If anything, it looks as if he is trying to move his hand away when it hit him.
The speed it was travelling, it simply ricocheted forward and struck him at an angle which, unfortunately, the officials could not see.
You can tell from Suarez's reaction that he expected it to be disallowed and when it wasn't he's decided to get on with the game.
It's not like he ran off celebrating. He did exactly what anyone who has ever played professional football – and anyone who plays in the future – would do in the same situation.
There will be outrage about it, firstly, because it's a high-profile incident in a high-profile game and secondly, because it's Suarez. He's become an easy target.
I can imagine if other players were at the centre of such a controversy it would be simply shrugged off as a stroke of luck – or bad luck so far as Mansfield are concerned – and the debate wouldn't focus so much on the identity of the goalscorer.
People like football to be black and white on these issues, encouraging a sense of ethics within the game. It's idealistic, but has no basis in reality.
Take that argument to the logical conclusion and you'd never need a referee or linesman.
Every time a foul isn't given, a defender can ask to stop the play and inform the opponent he just mistimed a tackle.
Take Craig Gardner for Sunderland against Spurs last week. Would anyone have expected him to ask the referee to rescind the booking against Gareth Bale – a caution that earned the Tottenham player a suspension – and admit he did make contact and a penalty should have been awarded?
Better still, all those who are outraged by Suarez's goal can tell their own side next weekend to admit every handball, every shirt-tug and every wrongly flagged offside that benefits their own team.
They can say they're doing so in the spirit of the game.
Where do you draw the line?
I was involved in an incident in the 1984 League Cup final against Everton. I was in my own penalty box, the ball hit my thigh and bounced onto my arm.
The penalty wasn't given. Are people saying I should have been running to the referee and telling him it might have been a spot-kick?
It's a nonsensical argument which shows no understanding of how the game is played, or the stakes for those at the highest level when the action is moving so quickly.
One of the first things I was taught as a youngster breaking into the first team was if I ever make a foul, particularly in the box, never look at the referee. It's seen as an admission of guilt and he's more likely to give it.
So, you're trying to get away with fouls. Is that cheating too? Of course not.
You're playing on the edge all the time and it's for the officials to determine where there has been a misdemeanor.
That's why there will be no moral condemnation from anyone within the game for what happened. Managers and players know that next week it could be their own team benefiting from such an incident.
There have been one or two situations where players have been acclaimed for their sportsmanship – Robbie Fowler telling the referee not to award a penalty against David Seaman in the early 1990s springs to mind. You won't find too many others.
The sad thing for Suarez is his reputation goes before him. In recent weeks he's been staying on his feet far more and there have been fewer incidents where opponents have accused him of diving.
He scored a goal against Sunderland recently where he could easily have thrown himself to the floor, but instead he retained his balance and scored. Nobody seemed to say much about the honesty of his play in that case.
Yesterday, Suarez simply followed the golden rule every youngster is taught when he first plays football – play to the whistle.
If that whistle doesn't come, it's the fault of the referee, not the player. (© Daily Telegraph, London)