Today was one of the craziest days I can remember football-wise for Uruguay. After the shocking news of Luis Suarez undergoing knee surgery early in the morning, the whole country entered into a viral hysteria and there was no Uruguayan who hadn't heard about the striker's situation.
It's fair to say that it is the worst news a football fan could get here in Uruguay, less than a month before the debut against Costa Rica in the World Cup. The season's best national player, Premier League star, the goal destroyer is injured. A never seen frenzy took over my country and only started calming down when news of his very possible recovery for the Cup began appearing.
That led to having three, four and five different sides of every angle of the biggest story of the day. And it WAS the biggest. So big that the resignation of the Minister of Industry was relegated to a lower part of every news website. So big that No. 515 -- his room number at the hospital where he underwent surgery -- was banned for betting in the national lottery because of the huge possibility of having thousands of bets set on it. Suddenly, Suarez spoke. "Thank you so much for your support. Don't worry, I will be there and I will work very hard these days to be 100 percent fit in order to help my teammates!!!" read the striker's statement in local newspaper Ovacion (El Pais).
Then, the doctors claimed that he was not ruled out for the Cup at all and things got back to normal. Nothing is certain, though. It depends on how the player's treatment goes. There is a fear that will last as long as Uruguay is on the Cup: What if he suffers a setback during the tournament and is ruled out? What if -- on the quest for a fast recovery -- he pushes himself too hard and has another injury?
One thing is for sure: Uruguay is not the same without him on the field. Being "La Celeste"'s historic top goal scorer and (probably) the most in-form player in the world, Uruguay cannot afford to lose him for the main event.
Suarez is that kind of player who can turn a match on its own. His animal focus on the rival goal, his ability to make a fool out of a whole defence and his iron will to never think that a ball is lost are conditions that cannot be found everyday on a football player. Uruguay has no other like him. The world doesn't, either. It will be a terrible blow for the Cup if another one of the greatest players nowadays misses the action.
Uruguayans can now relate to Colombians and Chileans whose major stars also suffered injuries that have their chances of playing in the World Cup hanging from a thread. Colombia's Radamel Falcao Garcia and Arturo Vidal from Chile are both very much in doubt for their respective countries. Suarez's name is added to that list now. Three South American countries are now crossing their fingers.
However, not many countries can have the luxury of losing their best forward and having to "settle" with Diego Forlan. The best player of South Africa 2010 is set to substitute Suarez in the starting 11 if Liverpool's man is not fit for the debut against Costa Rica on June 14. And that has to give a certain calm to the Uruguayan crowd. After all, he was the side's biggest star just a few years ago. He may be past his prime but he hasn't lost his clinical finishing.
It's not likely that Tabarez changes his tactics if Suarez misses the debut. Forlan taking his spot would be the most reasonable thing and what every fan would pick if they had a choice. This happened against Venezuela on June 11, 2013, for the World Cup Qualifiers. Suarez wasn't available and the blonde No. 10 took his spot alongside Edinson Cavani in a match that ended 1-0 for Uruguay.
The Internet craziness, the media frenzy and even this post -- they all help show what Suarez's injury means to the local crowd and what a major setback it would be for them if he can't play. After all "el Pistolero" has been through in his career -- after the criticism, the bans, the media chasing -- having the chance to play in Brazil would be an opportunity to show the world that he left the troubles behind him and now he's all about scoring goals.