Luis Suarez: The fascinating study in reputational management
If you’re a football fan you will know that Liverpool player Luis Suarez has scored over 20 goals this season, is in incredible form and may become one of the most expensive footballers in history in a few months.
If you’re able to open a newspaper or turn on the radio, you will know that he bit an opposition player on Sunday.
Luis Suarez is a fascinating study in reputational management. On the face of it, the 26 year old Uruguayan should be an inspiration to children around the world.
From a family of nine in Uruguay and playing football on the streets of Montevideo, he managed to work his way up to play for top clubs in Europe. However, his story is not the stereotypical loutish tale of a young footballer behaving badly and gracing the tabloids with pictures of him with different ladies in different nightclubs. Suarez came to Europe as his childhood sweetheart, Sofia, moved to Europe when he was 18 and he wanted to be with her. They married and have two children and he is known as a loving, family man. He doesn’t drink, is involved in charity work with the football club and all who have ever met him off a football pitch describe him as polite, quiet and a little shy. Suarez is dedicated to his family and his job, turning up for training early and always giving 100%.
Yet, his reputation is as far away from that of an inspirational, dedicated father as one can get. Despite his intriguing life story and his daily conduct, Suarez is often regarded as a cheat, a racist and – most damning of all to those who watch football punditry – a bad role model for young children.
So how has his reputation drifted so far from what it could be? Simply, Suarez has been defined by a couple of rash actions in his professional life.
Last year he was accused of racism for something said on the football pitch and before he came to England, he was banned from playing football in Holland for seven matches for biting a player. This week, he bit another player.
Those three instances represent mere seconds in a career and a life that have lasted years yet they are the most oft quoted when asked to describe Luis Suarez and the most vivid when used to define his character.
It goes to show that, whether you are a professional footballer, a Government Minister or a corporate firm, years and years of careful reputational management can be destroyed in a few, short seconds.