Luis Suarez has worked very hard to earn his reputation as one of the most hated players in world football, courting controversy both at club and international level. This isn’t the first time he’s got his teeth into a juicy scandal, but the reaction to the bite on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder sets it apart from previous incidents. Suarez and every Uruguayan institution has made him into a laughing stock.
When Suarez was caught on camera for the second time in his career biting an opponent, he had the wherewithall to apologise publicly for his behaviour. He promised never to do it again, presumably aware this would cut down his ban. The third time, when frankly it’s starting to look like less of a mistake and more some sort of biting fetish, he ought to pile on the remorse. Say you’ll seek help, confess to having a problem and pleading for clemency.
It’s very difficult to feel any kind of sympathy for a man whose official defence to FIFA was “I lost my balance and fell on Chiellini’s shoulder with my teeth.” Homer Simpson has thought up more believable excuses than that. In the plausibility stakes, it’s on a par with “he ran into my fist, Officer.”
Yet the Uruguayan Federation still managed to out-do their player by claiming an international conspiracy to Photoshop pictures of Chiellini’s shoulder with imaginary bite-marks. One presumes the same shadowy cabal also instantly digitally adjusted all the different video images that were beamed live around the world of Suarez clamping his jaws around the defender’s sinews. Faking the Moon landings seems like a doddle in comparison.
The insistence that Suarez “did nothing wrong,” that somehow Chiellini provoked him into a bite, that he is a wronged hero who should continue in the World Cup quite simply because the tournament needs star players, is offensively stupid. It also explains why he keeps doing this, as clearly in his country gnawing on people is a perfectly acceptable part of the game.
The entire nation of Uruguay, all the way up to the President, are enablers for Suarez. Their aggressive support and defence of the indefensible is preventing him from getting the help he sorely needs. As long as he keeps on thinking that biting opponents is alright, he’ll continue to fall into the trap of his own making. Even worse, he’ll absorb their siege mentality and believe everyone is against him, which in turn will fuel his evident anger management problem.
Of course Chiellini said a four-month ban was excessive, as he’s not new to embarrassing moments of madness himself. I still recall him pulling Edinson Cavani’s hair during a particularly ill-tempered Juventus-Napoli, not to mention his three-game suspension for elbowing Miralem Pjanic at the end of the season. He couldn’t demand too harsh a punishment for fear it’d come back to, er, bite him.
The rest of us, however, can have no sympathy whatsoever for Suarez. He deserves everything he gets and more. What FIFA have to worry about now is how they’ll deal with him the next time he bites someone. You just know there will be a next time. Will Uruguay continue to proclaim his innocence then?