‘How can I forgive him?’ – Ex-Ghana international Sarpei on Suarez 2010 World Cup handball

    The Uruguayan forward was responsible for stopping a goal that could have sent the Black Stars into the mundial semis with his hands

    Former Ghana defender Hans Sarpei says he can’t forgive Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, 10 years after the Black Stars were likely denied a place at the 2010 World Cup semi-finals following his controversial handball.

    The West African giants were making their first quarter-final appearance at the Mundial having reached the Round of 16 at their maiden event in 2006, where they lost to Brazil.

    They had taken the lead at Soccer City on July 2, 2010, via Sulley Muntari, but Uruguay equalised thanks to Diego Forlan’s freekick.

    In the dying minutes of extra-time, Ghana had an effort via Dominic Adiyiah from a John Paintsil freekick that was goal bound. However, Suarez used his hand to stop the ball from going in after goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was well beaten.

    Suarez was rightly given his marching orders, but Asamoah Gyan missed the resultant penalty and Uruguay then triumphed 4-2 in the penalty shootout that followed.

    It is a scar that still hunts Ghana today knowing they could have made history in becoming the first-ever African country to reach the World Cup semi-finals, after Cameroon and Senegal came close in 1990 and 2002, respectively.

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    “I can’t forgive him [Suarez] because it was not an accident,” Sarpei told BBC.

    “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.”

    Sarpei, who played at left-back that night, believes Ghana had it in them to see off Uruguay.

    He also believed Gyan was going to convert his penalty, having scored twice already in the tournament from the spot, against Serbia and Australia in the group stage.

    “On the way to the game against Uruguay, I think everybody knew we could beat them – I think the whole world was supporting us,” Sarpei continued.

    “The way we play the game: we’re playing on the front, we’re attacking in front. We try to enjoy the game. When you see Ghana, it’s like you’re listening to music because the ball is flowing.

    “I think everybody from our side was thinking ‘yeah, we’re going to the semi-final’ because Asamoah Gyan had scored two penalty goals before and he made it look easy.

    “I was standing there and for me, the ball was going into the net and we are going through to the next round.

    “Then it hit the crossbar and my first thought was like, ‘Is this real?’ Really? The ball is not into the net? What is happening? What is the problem?’

    “And then it was difficult. At this moment, when he didn’t score and we had to go to the penalty shootout, the feeling was like, now it will be difficult to go to the next round.”

    Paintsil, who played at right-back that day, also spoke to the BBC, and said he is still hurt by Suarez’s action which he claims was not professional after the then-Ajax Amsterdam player was caught on camera jubilating after Gyan’s penalty miss.

    “It still pains. I’m still feeling it anytime I think about it,” the 39-year-old said.

    “After the penalty was missed you came out and then celebrated like you’re on top of the world by hurting people. At least be a professional, feel the pain. Just go to your dressing room and celebrate and then nobody will see it.”

    Suarez is seen as a hero for his action in his country Uruguay as they make it to the semis for the first time in 40 years. Paintsil, however, admits that no African player would gamble in the manner Suarez did.

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    “One has to do what one has to do to make his country proud and that’s what he did to us,” he continued.

    “There’s no African player that would have done that.

    “Africans are more athletic. Even when the ball is on the other line, I would have tried to kick the ball, kung-fu style.”

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