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[By Prof. William Birdthistle:] The only Suárez headline on the globe without a pun

Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder, claiming he was bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Dunas arena in Natal June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (BRAZIL – Tags: SOCCER SPORT WORLD CUP TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TOPCUP)

Luis Suárez is one of the few soccer players on the planet so astoundingly good that he can win a game almost single-handedly. In fact, just last week at the World Cup he did so: firing two goals for Uruguay past England to sink them 2-1, a mere four weeks after he underwent knee surgery. Last season, he tied an English Premiership record by scoring 31 goals for Liverpool in a 38-game season. Except he didn’t play in 38 games. He played in only 33. Because he was serving a long ban. For biting someone.

And that brings us to the freshest Suárez headlines. In the 79th minute of today’s match against Italy, Suárez took a moment to demonstrate his hunger for the game by noshing on the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini. Replays of the bite were a little grainy and inconclusive on whether fava beans and a nice Chianti were also on the menu.

Like Dr. Lecter, Suárez possesses astonishing, nay inhuman, skill: every time he touches the ball, he seems to know what cologne a defender is wearing and why his childhood insecurities makes him vulnerable to a particular step-over move. As a Liverpool fan, I’ve long wondered what sort of elixirs might be responsible for Suárez’s talent, and those curiosities grew more pointed after his extraordinarily quick recovery from surgery. But now it seems clear that he derives his maleficent footballing power from dining on his enemies. He’s something of a cannibalistic recidivist on this, having bitten opponents at least twice in the past. Unlike Mike Tyson, who couldn’t resist the bacony appeal of ear cartilage, Suárez seems partial to the vampiric charm of a lingering collarbone nibble.

Since his footballing days are almost certainly going to be in long abeyance, perhaps we can pen a quick obituary of Suárez’s career lowlights. Despite all his goals and talent, he has always made cheering for him a Faustian bargain: when not consuming the opposition, he has also been penalized for racially denigrating them. And his antics at the last World Cup were also notorious: he cynically handballed a certain Ghanaian goal, perhaps with his occult powers assuring him that Ghana would miss the subsequent penalty and thereby justify his decision. They did, and Uruguay prevailed in the match.

Every now and then, an athlete perpetrates an outrage so criminal during a game, one wonders whether the enormity exceeds the jurisdiction of the sporting authorities. When Marty McSorley scythed Donald Brashear with his hockey stick, British Columbia’s Provincial Court found him guilty of assault with a weapon. I doubt Suarez will face criminal proceedings in a Brazilian court for today’s meal, not least because of the preemptive powers of FIFA’s omnipotence. But he will surely be banned for the rest of the tournament, if not long beyond.

Before we consign Suárez to the doggy bag (or should that be Chiellini?), let’s spare a thought for Italy. No, not for how hard done they were by Suárez and Uruguay’s win today. Let’s admire the dark arts that Italian defenders possess to inspire great footballers to retaliate in such spectacular fashion: first, Zidane’s Glasgow kiss; now Suárez’s Twilight kiss. And when I saw Suárez grab his own teeth in “pain” following the bite, I thought with gobsmacked admiration, how positively Italian.




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David Bernstein · June 24, 2014

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