Support still swells for Suarez
Gus Poyet was recently remembering the advice he received when he joined Chelsea 15 years ago.
"I had a team-mate at Zaragoza who had spent four or five years in England and he told me all the things that I shouldn't do," he said to the Uruguayan press.
"'Don't dive in the area, trying to get a penalty, don't score a goal with your hand, don't try to cheat the ref, don't try to pressure him to give a yellow card to an opponent'. At that moment I wondered where I was going. I thought I was on my way to another planet! But I adapted."
Football might be a universal language, but we speak it with different accents - one of the reasons that bringing in a player from a different culture always contains elements of a gamble. Not only is he a human being who has to adapt to life in a new country, he may also have to change some aspects of his behaviour on the field - or face the consequences.
Suarez's talent has helped him through a baptism of fire in the Premier League. Photo: Getty
All of this has since been discovered by one of Poyet's compatriots. When Luis Suarez joined Liverpool I imagined that his attacking thrust and the range of his talent would make him a firm favourite with the club's fans.
I also suspected that his competitive nature and temperamental streak would mark him out as the type of player whom opposing supporters love to hate. I did not bargain on an international incident.
Suarez, of course, served an eight- game suspension for racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United, and attempted to defend himself by pointing out that such behaviour was not considered unacceptable in Uruguayan football.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, it does not seem to have harmed the player's prestige at home.
Soon after February's infamous 'non-handshake' at Old Trafford, Nacional supporters turned their team's Copa Libertadores tie at home to Libertad of Paraguay into a pro-Luis Suarez rally. There were banners aplenty in praise of their old hero.
Nacional, of course, are the club where Suarez came through the youth ranks and made his name. It is only to be expected, then, that a bond will continue to exist between the player and the fans.
But the backing for Suarez has gone well beyond his old haunts. Uruguayan politicians queued up to express their indignation at his punishment. Even President Jose Mujica got in the act, the veteran left winger declaring his full support for Suarez and commenting that some people did not seem to realise that the young man at the centre of the scandal was a poor kid who had not studied to be a diplomat.
Back home, the hero status of Suarez is safe. To many of them the Evra incident is of little importance when weighed against the service the player has already given in the sky blue shirt of his nation. "Other countries have their history," goes the expression "while Uruguay has its football."
In South Africa two years ago Uruguay reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1970 - and only their second since going down in extra-time to the great Hungary side of 1954.
In Uruguay successive generations had only been able to hear tales of their country's footballing prowess from their grandparents - until South Africa when they could climb on the roller-coaster and enjoy it for themselves.
Since then Suarez has gone from strength to strength. In terms of national team football, no-one on earth was better than him in 2011.
He made an inspired start to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, scoring five times in three games. And before that he was the outstanding player last July as Uruguay won the Copa America for a record 15th time, putting them ahead of hosts Argentina in the all-time winners list.
As they celebrated on the field, the Uruguayan players sang about being champions again, just as they were the first time - a reference to the triumph of their predecessors in the inaugural Copa, held in 1916.
It is this respect for footballing tradition that gives Saturday's FA Cup Final a certain allure in Uruguay. The idea of a domestic cup competition is not a strong one in South America; Brazil has had such a trophy for the last 20 years, Colombia started recently and Argentina's is in its debut campaign.
But well entrenched is the practice of a big game to decide the destiny of a title - many league championships end this way. Throw in the historical importance of the competition and the presence on the Wembley pitch of Suarez, fresh from a hat-trick against Norwich, and it is clear the FA Cup final will be closely followed in Uruguay.
Part of this is down to Poyet, now the Brighton manager. His time at Chelsea did much to raise awareness of English football in Uruguay and also important were his exploits on the road to the 2000 FA Cup win.
At a time when the Premier League was starting to build a global audience, Poyet made it clear to his compatriots that the English game also contained a historic cup competition with a tradition going all the way back to 1872.
And so well has Poyet adapted that 12 years later he is still giving the English game the benefit of his international experience. It is hard to imagine Suarez still being in the country 12 years from now - there has even been speculation that he could be on his way out in the near future.
But however long he stays, his time in England will certainly be remembered - for reasons both positive and negative. He will hope that his contribution to the 131st FA Cup final will be recalled with pride by fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Send your questions on South American football to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag:
In your opinion, where does Neymar stand in relation to the top young players in European football, the likes of Gotze, Hazard, Wilshere, Thiago, etc? Is he on a different level altogether or do we have to wait to see him in Europe before a true judgement can be made? Jack Lewis
I don't watch enough European football to make an informed comparison, but I can tell you that Neymar really is an extraordinary talent. His running with the ball at pace, his capacity to see situations, his ability to improvise at speed and in reduced spaces, his finishing - all of these are sheer class.
It is true that Brazilian football allows him to operate in something of a comfort zone - the defensive lines operate deep, so there is plenty of space on the field in which he can pick up possession, and he picks up free-kicks that he would not always get in Europe.
My view is that the time has now come for him to make the move - an opinion Ronaldo gave to Gary Lineker last week. If he follows Ronaldo's advice you'll be able to make your own comparison before long!
What are your thoughts of the young Ecuadorians, Fidel "The Ecuadorian Neymar" Martinez (Deportivo Quito) and Fernando Gaibor (Emelec)? They seem to be playing well ahead of their age. Pacheg10
A poor man's Neymar is still something to be! Martinez has done wonderfully well so far in the Copa Libertadores, wide left in that Neymar position, offering a creative threat with both feet.
I first saw him in the Ecuador side that won the 2007 Pan-American gold medal. After Jefferson Montero I thought he was one of the most interesting players. Cruzeiro in Brazil picked him up but the early move didn't work out.
He's made a big impression since moving back to Ecuador last year, though, and is certainly one to watch, as is Gaibor. I thought he was the best all-round midfielder in last year's South American Under-20 Championships and he's kept getting better since.