The worst part of Luis Suárez's suspension for the player himself probably hasn't been the jokes about his cannibalistic supervillain image, nor missing out on the early parts of this promising Barcelona season, nor the weekly adulation from tens of thousands of fans he used to receive whenever he stepped on the pitch of a meaningful match. No, the worst part of his suspension has to be the fact that he has been unable to do what he does best at the highest levels.
Not that he can't play at all. Suárez's appeal of FIFA's four-month ban from all soccer activity was successful in a limited way, in that he was made available for training and friendly matches. Trotting out on the practice pitch in those pink shirts and scoring a couple goals in 7-on-7 drills is nothing like lacing up the boots and pulling on the blaugrana colors before running out before more than 70,000 fans at the Camp Nou, though.
Never has this been more plain than today. While the first team traveled to Andalusia ahead of today's away match against Málaga, Suárez stayed back in Barcelona, as usual. This time, though, he was able to get 90 minutes against someone other than teammates, when he joined the youth ranks for Barça B's friendly against Indonesia's U19 squad.
As you can see above, it was a sad spectacle. Suárez scored twice, the first when he outraced a boy at least 8 years his junior to a lofted through ball and clipped it past the keeper, the second when he twinkle-toed his way past a couple kids at and blasted in a shot from distance.
The goals themselves were impressive. There's a reason he cost €94 million. But look at the kids he's sharing the pitch with. He has about six inches and 50 pounds on anyone marking him. There's barely a hint of happiness or even satisfaction when, after scoring, he weakly high-fives his young teammates before putting his head down and returning to the center circle.
Today's match does nothing for him. The jokes practically write themselves: "Suárez chomps his way through the Indonesian U19 defense, claims they were undercooked"; "Only two goals? I guess U19s are a little underripe for Suárez's taste"; "After the match, Suárez was raring to go again: 'Those guys were an okay snack, but not enough meat on those bones for me!.'" For the missing adulation, the handful of family on hand probably didn't warm his heart as much as a full Kop used to. Hopefully another meaningless match against comically outmatched opponents gets him to realize the true tragedy of his behavior. As much as he wants to be out there showing what he can do, we want to be able to watch it.