There’s something wrong with Luis Suarez. Considering his history of behavioral problems, that much is clear. Whether the Uruguayan star acted out by jamming his teeth into the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory in a World Cup Group D match on Tuesday is not — at least to FIFA officials, who are currently investigating Suarez’s latest antics.
The incident in question, which sure looks like a bite, occurred in the 79th minute of a match that would decide which team would be moving on in the tournament and which would be going home. The high tension is no excuse to resort to assault, though Suarez hardly seems to need one. The Liverpool star has incurred two previous suspensions for biting opponents. In 2010, while playing for Ajax in the Netherlands’ Eredivisie league, he took a bite out of PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal and was suspended for seven games. Last year, Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea. He was suspended for 10 games.
Italy’s Chiellini, the victim of Tuesday’s apparent assault, however, has little faith that FIFA will dole out any punishment. He’s skeptical officials will determine the visible bite marks photographed on his shoulder didn’t get there by accident. (As one Associated Press photo caption put it, below, Suarez’s teeth “ran into [Chiellini's] shoulder.”)
The Italian defender told Sky Sport Italia after the match (via Football Italia):
“Suarez is a sneak and he gets away with it because FIFA want their stars to play in the World Cup. I’d love to see if they have the courage to use video evidence against him.”
FIFA officials, meanwhile, have said they are investigating Suarez’s alleged infraction. Jim Boyce, the organization’s vice president, told a pool reporter (via the Los Angeles Times) after the incident that FIFA was going to “gather all the necessary elements in order to evaluate the matter.” Boyce also said that should the investigation turn something up, FIFA would “take whatever disciplinary action is deemed necessary.”
FIFA’s disciplinary code allows the organization to suspend players for up to 24 matches. The longest suspension in World Cup history lasted eight matches. Italy’s Mauro Tassotti was the recipient after he elbowed Spanish player Luis Enrique in the face and broke his nose in 1994.
Regardless of what FIFA decides, however, public opinion of Suarez has sunk to what seems like an all-time low. Fellow athletes — including Mike Tyson bite victim Evander Holyfield — took to social media to deride Suarez’s actions.
I guess any part of the body is up for eating. — Evander Holyfield (@holyfield) June 24, 2014
“‘These situations happen on the field. I had contact with his shoulder, nothing more, things like that happen all the time. I don’t know anything, if FIFA analyse each case separately it’s going to be complicated.”
(Well, not if FIFA only analyzes the cases that involve alleged biting of opponents. There’s only one player who’s being accused of that…)
Suarez’s team captain, Diego Lugano, had even stronger words for inquisitive reporters. He addressed one of them (via The Mirror):
“You saw this, really? You need to show me because I didn’t see anything. Did you see it today or did you see what happened in other years? You couldn’t have seen it today because nothing happened.”
FIFA will have some time to decide whether something happened and, if so, what that something was and how Suarez will be punished. Uruguay is scheduled to plays its opening knockout-round match on Saturday against Colombia.
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