You would have thought that Luis Suarez had learned his lesson after being caught last year biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic’s arm, earning him a ten game ban but it would appear not. In yesterday’s nail biting winner takes all final group match between Italy and Uruguay, Suarez appeared to lean into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and bite him on the shoulder. The Juventus player reacted like many others would with disgust and anger, instantly pulling down his jersey to show the referee (and the watching world) the newly created bite marks. It’s yet another outrageous act from one of the world’s best players and with FIFA now set to act; it’s hard to see how Suarez can recover from this. The player has until 5pm Brasilia time to submit his position and any other documented evidence to FIFA ahead of a decision being made. Suarez insists that he simply bumped into the shoulder of Chiellini and the whole thing should not be made into a big deal. The pictures however tell a different story with Suarez appearing to lean into the shoulder of the Italian centre back in a quick motion before the pair fell to the ground.
Fortunately for Suarez the Mexican referee, Marco Rodriguez did not see the clash so took no action but now FIFA is ready to step in after reviewing the footage. Given that spitting on an opponent leads to a six game ban by FIFA, biting an opponent is likely to lead to a heavier ban from the governing body, effectively ruling Suarez out of the rest of the World Cup. And since Suarez has previous bans for biting at domestic club level (firstly in Holland with Ajax where he received a seven game ban for biting PSV’s Ottman Bakkal and then in England where he got a ten game ban for biting Ivanovic), FIFA will look to make an example of Suarez and throw the book at him. Both previous incidents fell under the jurisdiction of the local governing bodies with FIFA unwilling to intervene but with this incident happening during a FIFA organized tournament, the ramifications could be more severe. Suarez could face up to a maximum of a 2 year worldwide ban from football, based on FIFA’s disciplinary code or as little as a three match ban as handed down to former France midfielder Zinedine Zidane for a head butt on Marco Materazzi during the 2006 final.
Regardless of what ban is handed down, Suarez’s World Cup is over and with it goes Uruguay’s chances of winning the tournament. Without their talisman, they look less likely to score as shown in their opening group game against Costa Rica where they struggled to break down a team ranked as group outsiders. When Suarez returned to the side to face England, it was he who popped up twice to score, helping Uruguay to a famous 2-1 win. Even against Italy, before the biting incident, Suarez looked like Uruguay’s only goal scoring threat so a ban now would set the whole team back. His teammates on the field knew exactly what he had just done and tried desperately to defuse the situation and cover it up. Gaston Ramirez tried to stop Chiellini from showing the referee the bite marks by pulling the Italian’s jersey back into place. But by that point it was too late with the world’s media having already captured the moment and replaying it over and over.
Suarez’s actions could also wreck his chances of a dream move to Spain with either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Neither club is likely to risk paying in excess of €60million for a player with a reputation for violent conduct on the pitch who could also now be banned for a long period of time. They both gave him the benefit of the doubt last season that perhaps he was reformed after serving his ban for biting Ivanovic. But this latest incident will resurface those initial doubts and could scupper any proposed move for the troubled Uruguayan hitman. It’s been a rollercoaster World Cup for Suarez who watched from the bench in agony as Uruguay crashed to a surprise 3-1 defeat by Costa Rica in their opening game before making his hero’s comeback against England and snatching the two goals needed to secure three points. The win yesterday put Uruguay into the knockout stages to face Colombia, a moment that should have been exhilarating for Suarez but instead he is staring down the barrel into the abyss that is now his career. Given the reoccurrence of his actions, Suarez needs to seek help and FIFA may just give him the time to do that when they finally come back with his punishment for yet another stupid act.