No place in Brazil: Luis Suarez should be banned for six months

Suarez bite: Giorgio Chiellini reveals teeth marks on his shoulder. Photo: Reuters
Suarez bite: Giorgio Chiellini reveals teeth marks on his shoulder. Photo: Reuters

Luis Suarez has twice been on the naughty step for biting but was plainly not deterred. Faced with a third offence by a toddler, even a supernanny would run screaming from the house. The man-child who destroyed England's World Cup hopes has a pathological problem and must pay for it with a minimum six-month ban from football.

"It was clear-cut. It was ridiculous not to send him off," said Giorgio Chiellini after pulling back his shirt to reveal teeth marks on his shoulder. Chiellini is a classic Italian centre-back: tough, awkward to play against and an agent provocateur. He is entitled to go about his work, though, without an opposition striker trying to make a meal of him. The same is true for Suarez's two previous victims, who were also dragged into his violent kindergarten. Chiellini called him a "sneak" and doubted Fifa's willingness to eject one of the stars of the tournament. They must know that keeping him in would do more damage than kicking him out, and not just of international football.

Facing a lengthy ban: Luis Suarez caught biting an opponent for the third time. Photo: Getty Images

Facing a lengthy ban: Luis Suarez caught biting an opponent for the third time. Photo: Getty Images

There are plenty of inspirational players in Brazil: Neymar, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben among them. Just as the drums started beating again for a Suarez move to Real Madrid or Barcelona, he has turned himself back into a pariah. The move his father-in-law says he is tempted to make is surely in jeopardy, assuming Fifa display the courage of their own lawbook. Alternatively Liverpool face the prospect of paying a player on an improved contract fortunes to sit in the doghouse for another long spell.

The first step was Fifa saying it would "gather all the necessary elements in order to evaluate the matter". If the charge is proven it would be a scandal if they allow him to continue at this tournament and no less a farce if they neglected to take his "previous" into account. Uruguay are set to face Colombia in their second-round match at the Maracana in Rio on Saturday.

Fifa's maximum sanction is thought to be two years.

Biting is said by psychologists to be an impulse crime, borne of fear and panic. But Suarez is in no real danger on a football field. Nor can he be in any doubt about the cost to his victim, himself or his team when he sinks his teeth into an opponent's arm or shoulder.

His 10-game ban for chewing on Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic cast a long shadow over him and Liverpool, who had defended him so resolutely during the Patrice Evra racial abuse case. Sticking up for him is pointless. For him, loyalty is a one-way street.

This latest failure of self-control, in the Italy-Uruguay game in Natal, points to another alarming disconnect between actions and consequences. Given the potential punishment, Suarez is apparently incapable of calculating the cost of inflicting pain on a fellow professional in this way. Eric Cantona kung-fu'd a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park and returned to football chastened. Suarez, on the other hand, goes from assault to assault, with no apparent cognisance of the turmoil that will follow.

After three incidents, it is not football's business to put an arm round him, especially with a World Cup in full flow. The game's duty is to protect the victim. After this, there can be no confidence that he will ever cease and desist. Even a six-month ban might not keep the flesh of defenders safe.

In 2010, at Ajax in Amsterdam, Suarez was suspended for seven games for biting PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal on the shoulder. In April last year, he grabbed Ivanovic's arm like a man picking a lump of meat off a barbecue and buried his teeth in the bicep. As with the Group D game here, the attack was not dealt with by match officials. Suarez was later charged by the FA with violent conduct and banned for 10 games. The disciplinary panel described his actions as "deplorable". Over that summer, Suarez agitated for a move away from Liverpool and was accused of showing "total disrespect" to the club by Brendan Rodgers, the manager. Less than a year later he was being anointed the PFA and Footballer Writers' Association footballer of the year after a stunning season without disciplinary incident. The Evra racist language case was allowed to rest, along with the Ivanovic offence. Fellow pros and journalists overlooked his tendency to dive and exaggerate the impact of tackles. The cascade of goals and rampaging displays in a Liverpool shirt lifted him close to Thierry Henry on the scroll of great foreign players to have adorned the Premier League.

Those judgments have been turned upside down. Suarez was not reformed but biding his time. Even Liverpool's notoriously loyal fans will struggle to defend him now. And those who argue that a knee-high career ending tackle is worse than a bite lack the fall-back of calling this a one-off, or even a two-off.

Football is on uncharted territory with a gifted player who uses his teeth so often as a weapon. As Chiellini bared his shoulder, shock seized the World Cup. Diving, rolling, handling the ball on the line, racial abuse, three cases of biting: Suarez is a force of nature as a footballer and a rogue of a man. He has no place in Brazil.

The Telegraph, London


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