Luis Suarez turned goalkeeper to deny Ghana a goal in the dying minutes of Uruguay's quarterfinal clash with Ghana in 2010Image: AP
World Cup 2022: Ghana seek revenge against Luis Suarez
December 1, 2022
Twelve years after Ghana were denied an opportunity to reach the World Cup semifinals in South Africa, national anger still lingers. The fans in Qatar hope they can get vengeance against an unapologetic opponent.
Hero or villain, your choice. But Uruguay's Luis Suarez feels the hatred of Ghana fans is misplaced ahead of their meeting at Al Janoub. He points the finger at Ghanaian player Asamoah Gyan.
"I don't apologize about the handball. The Ghana player missed the penalty, not me," Suarez said in response to a DW question. "Maybe I could apologize if I injured a player and I take a red card. But in this situation, I took a red card, the referee gave a penalty. It is not my fault because I didn't miss the penalty. It is not my responsibility that [Gyan] missed the penalty. You saw the player who missed the penalty, and he said he would do the same."
Twelve years ago, the striker turned himself into a goalkeeper in the ultimate act of desperation to stop a goal-bound Dominic Adiyiah header with his hands in the final minutes of a quarterfinal encounter in Johannesburg.
He got sent off, but Ghana's Gyan missed the late penalty that would have sent the Black Stars into the semifinals, denying the continent a place in the last four for the first time as they instead went on to lose after a penalty shootout.
The 35-year-old Uruguayan, who is playing at potentially his final World Cup, hopes Ghana can look beyond the past and focus on the now. "You can't keep focusing on the past or revenge," he said.
Mind games, perhaps?
'Very sad day for us'
Suarez's answer cannot assuage the hurt of Ghanaians who consider the Uruguayan as the "devil himself." He might even be the one single person all Ghanaians jointly despise despite the country's politics that divide the country down the middle.
"Luis Suarez became an enemy of African football," said Issa Sawado, a member of the Ghanaian supporter's delegation to Qatar. "Ghana was leading the cause for Africa, not for Ghana alone. We were the only hope for Africa at the 2010 World Cup. We were trying to make a point, but we were deprived of getting to the semifinals through dubious means."
"It was a very sad day for us," said Abdallah Adnan, a Ghana supporter. "I was at the university, and the whole community was devastated. We were all shattered, and that memory is still there. We are looking for revenge."
If the Black Stars bring an end to Suarez's career here in Qatar, it will potentially heal the wounds inflicted 12 years ago.
"When we were watching the South Korea game, all we kept talking about was Luis Suarez," said Maltiti Sayida Sadick, a journalist with Ghana's national broadcaster GBC. "We cannot wait to pay back what Suarez did to us in 2010."
Do the Black Stars care?
Only one player remains in the Ghana squad from 2010 — captain Andre Ayew. He has previously said that he wants to focus on getting to the knockout stages.
However, his deputy Thomas Partey recalls watching the game as a young junior school footballer in the town of Ashaiman on the outskirts of the country's capital, Accra.
"We had the chance to score the penalty, but we were unlucky the ball did not go in," Partey responded to a DW question. "We are going into this game well-prepared; we must work hard and play according to our plans."
Coach Otto Addo, a former Black Star himself, put the game into perspective. "If the same incident had happened the other way round, [Ghanaians and Africans] would have said something different. I expect every player to sacrifice themselves for the team. For me, it is not a big topic. We prepare as well as we can. We try to emphasize our strengths," he said.
Veteran Uruguayan journalist Jorge da Silveira, who was recently honored for reporting at his 15th World Cup, was quite philosophical. "I was in South Africa 12 years ago, which was a very difficult match for us. But I think it was also a very dark day for the Ghana players who lost the game," he said. "But I think that this is another game in another time."
If Ghana wins, there will be joy at finally exorcising the ghost of Suarez. There was always the question of how far they could have gone if he had not got his hands on Adiyiah's header. We will never know. What we do know is that the 2022 World Cup is ready to write another chapter of this saga.