Luis Suarez finds himself at the centre of another storm of controversy following Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy, as he appears to have bitten down on to the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini.
The saddening aspect of the latest in a reel of disreputable incidents involving the Luis Suarez is that it highlights the ugliest side possible of both himself and the World Cup in a wider context. 24 hours ago, the watching world let their hearts melt and conform to the utter ecstasy of Mexico and their effervescent manager, Miguel Herrera. The Mexican national side, Herrera especially, have been lauded for their passion, adventure and bravery in dismantling Croatia, providing sure to be a most enduring memory of this summer’s tournament. Thousands of Twitter feeds and news articles showered praise on the unity expressed by the Mexicans in their quest for knock-out World Cup football and it became increasingly apparent that this is why we watch football; for the thrill, for the upsets, for the joy it brings to an entire nation.
24 hours later, in Natal, Luis Suarez stands buck-toothed, hands on hips and panting profusely following the intense finish to the match. Yes, Suarez can be applauded for his tireless performance in attempting to unlock the Italian barrier and defeat a shining Buffon in nets. However, nothing will be said of it. Rather, the PFA Player of the Year is likely to be universally vilified for clamping down on an opponent for the third time in his career. FIFA are likely to review the incident exhaustively and come to a swift and correct conclusion, as they always can be trusted to do.
The image of Suarez throwing his fist in frustration after the immediacy of Uruguayan elation had settled down on the pitch is stark. It is not a man who is celebrating in the glory of his team’s triumph, nor is it a player who is looking forward to the prospect of further football. On the contrary, it is a man furious with himself. Knowing that he is likely to be handed a severe punishment considering his track record of incidents involving biting other players which could possibly lead to the end of his tournament, or his World Cup career for that matter.
The video evidence is conclusive enough- as Cavani holds the ball out wide for Uruguay, Suarez and Chiellini lock shoulders in the penalty box anticipating the cross. As they clash lightly, Suarez turns towards the defender and appears to open his mouth and feast upon the Italian’s trapezius, prompting him to fall down clutching his left shoulder in apparent agony. Suarez’s reaction is to sit on the ground holding on to his incisors, immediately letting the watching world know that he has used his teeth as a weapon once more. Suarez will have been hoping that his reaction would have theatrically masked the bite on Chiellini for an elbow on himself, making him the victim of the incident. However, the existence of one angle on the video evidence clearly showing Suarez’s intention will more than likely mean retrospective action be taken against the Uruguayan.
Following the match, the ITV punditry brigade were aghast at what they had just witnessed. Lee Dixon looked befuddled at anchor Adrian Chiles as he addressed the issue meanwhile Glenn Hoddle adopted the Helen Lovejoy approach and asked “will somebody think of the children?” Finally, Ian Wright, opted to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Suarez’s psyche by stating: “There’s gotta be something wrong with ‘im, innit?”
The collective sense of bemusement and perturbation will speak for the minds of millions in that it can not exactly be explained why Suarez has decided to behave in such a manner again after being slapped with a lengthy ban for previously taking a chunk out of Branislav Ivanovic’s forearm during a Liverpool Chelsea match in the Premier League in 2013. Glenn Hoddle, for all his frightened mothering act, speaks the most sense. How can football continue to let someone of this mindset play in the biggest stadiums, in front of the largest crowds and for one of the most decorated team’s in sporting history, as well as being chased by a few more.
Rewind back to 2010. The World Cup, again. Suarez handballs a header from a Ghanian player to prevent the Africans more or less progressing to the semi-final of the competition- what would have been an unprecedented accomplishment. He was correctly sent off and Ghana had the chance to extinguish the anger with a penalty. However, it was not so much the handball which was looked at disparagingly rather Suarez’s outpouring of emotion as he watched from the tunnel, seemingly oblivious to the plight of the Ghana players, coaching staff and fans.
The “do anything to win” mentality which he claims to adopt led him to bite Ivanovic that fateful afternoon in Anfield and in spite of a lengthy ban and virulent castigation from the English media, he continues to stand above the rest as a poster-boy for the Premier League, reeling in barrels of trophies, distinctions and individual achievements. Adopt the Hoddle school of thought; millions of children are idolising this man for his football because the enormity of his talent and ingenuity veils a darker, almost psychopathic side.
He is undoubtedly one of the most gifted footballers of his generation but more importantly, he is also one of the most dangerous. Unfortunately it will dominate the headlines for a while in what has otherwise been a thrilling World Cup full of goals, upsets and gripping football. The jury is out. Over to you FIFA.