Why two strikers' careers should end this year.Deception. Disgrace. Two words that very aptly describe two players whose actions have earned them a permanent spot in football's hall of shame. I'm of course referring to Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Dynamo Moscow's Aleksandr Kokorin. Football has always had its share of troubled players, too many to name and some whose evils transcended the pitch into the realm of criminal code. With all the emotional baggage that surrounds every sport, it's easy to forget that at the end of the day, all individuals have a choice: to lower themselves to the level of animals and live by instinct, or to put their personal feelings, qualms and the like aside for the sake of society, their company or team. The always-controversial Luis Suarez cemented his path earlier this season by biting yet another player. Not content with his scandal involving racial abuse hurled at Patrice Evra early in the season, Suarez chose to prolong his already tarnished image. His latest victim was Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, who, luckily for Suarez, seems to have quickly forgotten about having his arm bitten and shrugged the issue aside. What strikes me as odd however is not the lack of response from Ivanovic and co., but the attitude that Liverpool supporters as well as the club's manager continue to display, to the point where they readily justify Suarez's actions as long as he continues to score goals for the team. The Uruguayan's verbal assault did not stop then-manager Kenny Dalglish from supporting him, and from firmly believing Suarez "doesn't have anything to prove to anyone at Liverpool FC". The Ivanovic incident spurred manager Brendan Rodgers to step up to his player's defense as well. In the most hypocritical statement possible, Rodgers assured the world that Suarez "had not let him down one bit", and although "he is a player who fell well below the standards of [LFC] at the weekend...that doesn't mean he should be thrown to the garbage".
It's a sad day in football when more than one generation of managers backs a player who put a club with a rich and treasured history to shame. Turning a blind eye to a problem only makes it worse. That has been proven time and time again, and yet the decision made regarding each incident continues to be an ellipsis rather than a definite period. Football has enough problems with match-fixing, refereeing, and goal-line technology to be bothered with such antics. As Suarez's first victim Otman Bakkal said back in April, "it doesn't belong on the pitch".
Perhaps a lesser known perpetrator, Aleksandr Kokorin, proved that he too has been wrongfully picked for the starting XI. Like Suarez, Kokorin has established a presence in the mass media for his potential, has long been revered by fans, and has been referred to as a world-class player by the club's manager on more than one occasion. In recent times, the striker came under fire for faking an injury with the intent to preserve his strength for upcoming games with the national team. Dynamo manager Dan Petrescu revealed in several interviews that the problem had nothing to do with Kokorin's fitness, but with "himself". The Russian international had barely returned to the starting XI when his reckless challenge against FC Alania's Danilo Neco in the Premier League's penultimate matchweek initiated a massive brawl. The fight involved Kokorin and Giogri Chanturia, with Dynamo's Balazs Dzsudzsak and captain Leandro Fernandez attempting to pull the two apart. Replays show more than just the tackle and ensuing reaction - Kokorin can be seen punching Chanturia, then intentionally continuing the motion through teammate Dzsudzsak's face. Never mind the first incident; injuring a teammate is reason enough to never again step foot on the pitch. I'd like to point out that both Dzsudzsak and Kokorin were sent off, despite the fact that the former was clearly the victim of the incident, and is shown in replays as trying to keep him and Chanturia apart during the scuffle.
It is one thing to be a sub-par, mediocre and overrated player who brings little to the club. It is another thing entirely to threaten your teammate's health and well-being while simultaneously jeopardizing the reputation of the club and its management. "There should be respectful, intelligent people on the pitch, but we saw unbridled bandits who lost everything, including their conscience," said Spartak Moscow veteran and Soviet champion Valery Reingold. "They say that Kokorin is a star. But he was and stays a zero". Earlier this season, Petrescu hinted at Kokorin's untapped potential, going so far as to say that "he can play for any club in the world", Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Chelsea among them.
Ultimately, talent and character cannot remain separate. Take a player with any amount of potential who has no promise as a person - his career will suffer the minute his true self is revealed to the world, putting a padlock on any possibilities of becoming a legend, or at the very least, at being remembered with fondness.
Suarez and Kokorin's actions initiate a question that continues to hover in 21st century sports and politics: how many times must someone break the rules, and to what extreme must someone break them, before something is finally done? There's another question that should surface in the minds of the intelligent few: why are the rich and famous allowed to get away with things that would immediately send anyone else behind bars?
Whether or not you believe in science, it is a well-established fact of life that one action leads to another, which leads to a series of others, in an infinite progression. Unless an equal and opposite force gets in the way, enough forces can accumulate to escalate the series. There is no need in football for players like Luis Suarez and Aleksandr Kokorin. The management of Liverpool and FC Dynamo would do well to re-read their club mission statements and ban these players from ever stepping foot on the pitch again.
The worst part of the whole shenanigan is that it's more likely than not that nothing will be done. Sure, both players can get fined as many times as the disciplinary committee sees fit. What'll that do? The Lion King taught us at an early age that sometimes, "these outsider types" can't change their stripes. This day and age in sports and politics calls for drastic measures. It's time to administer rules the right way: by being completely unforgiving. An infringement on justice, let alone more than once, deserves no mercy. The FA, RFU, and others can do as they see fit, but that will never change an a priori truth: such behavior is inexcusable, both on and off the pitch.