Luis Suarez will NEVER be forgiven in Ghana for his infamous 2010 handball on the goal-line that broke the hearts of a continent… but now they finally have a chance for revenge at the Qatar World Cup

  • Uruguay eliminated Ghana from the 2010 World Cup in controversial fashion
  • Luis Suarez stopped a goalbound header with his hands late in extra time
  • The forward was red-carded but Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty
  • Uruguay then beat Ghana in the penalty shoot-out to reach the semi-finals
  • Suarez celebrated with his team-mates and has never shown any remorse
  • Ghana and Uruguay will meet in Group H on matchday three out in Qatar

No team taking the field at the Qatar World Cup will be more motivated to enact revenge.

It’s perfectly possible that the meeting of Ghana and Uruguay at the Al Janoub Stadium on December 2, on the final day of group fixtures, will decide who makes it through to the last-16.

But for the nation of Ghana, there has seldom been any football match they’d rather win more.

When Luis Suarez deliberately handballed on the goal-line back in 2010, sacrificing himself but ultimately showing Uruguay the route to victory, the hearts of an entire country broke.

Much more than that, his actions left the entire continent of Africa devastated and actually a fair chunk of the globe too.

For 2010 was Africa’s World Cup and amid all the giddiness, many allowed themselves to believe the Black Stars were destined to go all the way.

It was the great Pele that predicted an African world champion by the year 2000. An African winner in 2010 wouldn’t have been too far wide of the mark.

We witnessed the hosts, South Africa, come agonisingly close to getting out of their group. Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast all failed. But Ghana were an altogether different proposition.

They’d qualified just behind Germany in Group D, and ahead of Australia on goal difference, before an extra time win over the United States in the last-16.

Led by the Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac, this was the Ghana team of Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Price Boateng and Stephen Appiah, who would all become household names that month.

Ghana liked to play attractive, front-foot football. They boasted many quick and skilful players. In short, they were your classic World Cup dark horses.

This also contrasted them to their quarter-final opponents at Soccer City in Johannesburg. Uruguay were a team of many talents but they weren’t afraid to stretch the limits of sportsmanship with their cynical fouls.

The events of this night, however, would take all that to a whole new level.

What is often forgotten is that the huge global TV audience and over 84,000 Vuvuzela-tooting fans inside the stadium were treated to an exciting end-to-end contest.

Given Uruguay’s reputation, Ghana were undoubtedly the neutrals’ choice, carrying on their shoulders the burdensome expectations of all of Africa.

The first-half looked destined to end goalless until Muntari, then an Inter Milan player, decided to try his luck from a good 40 yards out. The shot stayed low, curved viciously and seemed to deceive the Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

‘Africa strikes! Ghana strikes!’ shouted Peter Brackley on comms, straining to be heard above the droning of the horns in the crowd.

The lead didn’t last long. 10 minutes into the second-half, the ex-Manchester United forward Diego Forlan equalised with a devilish free-kick from wide left of the Ghana box.

The Adidas Jabulani match ball was hated by goalkeepers during the tournament and here was a prime example of its wildly unpredictable movement.

Both sides had chances to win it in normal time and extra time. Penalties loomed very large indeed when Ghana won a free-kick wide on the right and had one last chance to conjure up a winner.

Fulham’s John Paintsil swung the ball in, Kevin-Prince Boateng flicked it on, Muslera came to collect the ball, failed to get anywhere near it and Appiah’s shot was blocked by Suarez’s leg on the line.

The ball popped up and Dominic Adiyiah met it with a firm goalbound header. Uruguayan left-back Jorge Fucile, falling backwards, couldn’t quite reach it but behind him still was Suarez.

You might call it human instinct. The daft thing is Suarez could have easily headed the ball away before it crossed the line. There wasn’t any goal-line technology anyway, as England had discovered against Germany a few days earlier.

But Suarez didn’t merely throw up his hands to protect his face, he essentially batted the ball away like a volleyball player. It was a calculated act.

‘I think it was just instinct. Any player would have done the same, not just me,’ claimed Suarez a few years afterwards. ‘My first reaction was to use my hand.’

Even in these pre-VAR days the transgression was as clear as day. The assistant flagged immediately and Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca dipped straight into his top pocket for the red card.

Suarez appeared to be in tears as he walked from the field, wiping his eyes on his shirt. But he still loitered around the tunnel entrance to watch Gyan’s penalty attempt.

Gyan, then a Rennes player but soon to move to Sunderland, had been a towering figure in Ghana’s World Cup campaign. He was a reliable penalty taker and had scored his team’s extra time winner against the United States.

Many inside the stadium believed it was a foregone conclusion that Gyan would send Ghana through, making them the first-ever African team in a World Cup semi-final.

But the moment got the better of him, his kick striking the crossbar and bouncing over. The cameras cut to Suarez, his mood transformed in an instant, celebrating wildly.

There was still a shoot-out to come, however, and Suarez watched from the Uruguay dressing room alongside reserve goalkeeper Juan Castillo.

The first five penalties were converted but then Mensah’s tame effort on a ludicrously short run-up was kept out by Muslera.

Maxi Pereira restored African hope by blasting over the bar but Adiyiah’s ill-fated evening continued when his spot-kick was also saved, allowing Sebastian Abreu, with the most audacious of chips, to send Uruguay through.

Suarez’s gambit had paid off and the debate raged on for some time. Were his actions cheating, pure and simple? Or was this just an elite sportsman willing to go to any lengths to win?

Suarez didn’t exactly help his cause by racing back down the tunnel to celebrate with his victorious team-mates after the shoot-out.

Afterwards, he seemed to mock Ghana by talking about ‘making the save of the tournament’ and that ‘the Hand of God now belongs to me, mine is the real Hand of God’ in reference to Diego Maradona’s infamous handball goal against England in 1986.

He has also refused to express a shred of remorse in the dozen years since.

After the two nations were paired together in the draw earlier this year, he said: ‘I took a risk in a situation in which I have been blamed for anti-fair play.

‘However, the Ghana player missing the penalty is not my fault.’

Pushed on whether he had any regrets, he replied: ‘Not at all. I didn’t kick anyone or anything like that. That’s why I think that I celebrated like that for having taken a risk for something that was worth it.

‘Running back onto the field was incredible. For me, it is one of the best moments I experienced with the national team.’

There is also no doubt the incident raised Suarez’s profile. An Ajax player at the time, he would move to Liverpool in a £22.8million deal six months later.

At the time of his move, he was suspended in Holland for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder. Of course, it wouldn’t be the last time he did something like that.

But in Ghana, he is still not forgiven and is unlikely to ever be.

‘I can’t forgive him because it was not an accident,’ defender Hans Sarpei told the BBC in 2020.

‘He knows what he has done. We were crying and you see someone who has cheated us is celebrating. How can I forgive him? Never. Never ever.’

Being paired with Uruguay this time around will only have stirred up bad memories in Ghana.

They will want their revenge and despite the 12 years that have passed, it’s likely Suarez, now 35 and back with Nacional in his homeland, will be involved.

It promises to be spicy.

Credit: Daily mail