Watching Luis Suarez’s assault on Giorgio Chiellini again (and it is hard to avoid it here in Brazil, the local television is playing it on an almost continuous loop) what strikes me is how weird it is.
As moral equivalence seems to be the prevailing requirement when dealing with anything to do with the striker, it has to be said he is not endangering the Italian’s life. His toothy intervention is not remotely threatening to the player’s future career. He is not attempting to break his leg or tear the ligaments on his knee. He is just biting him. Yet this is a 27-year-old man biting a fellow professional. How bizarre is that? He is not a three-year-old. He is a grown man. He has children.
Imagine if it happened in your office. Jeremy from HR gets into a dispute with Geoff from accounts about hand towels in the gents and bites him. Immediately some of his colleagues step in and say: yes, Jeremy may have bitten Geoff, but Geoff can be a shirty bugger and anyhow Jeremy is a brilliant HR executive. It wouldn’t happen. Jeremy would be fired and everyone in the office would scratch their heads. A grown man has just bitten another grown man: what was that about?
And this remember is not the first time Suarez has bitten someone on a football field. He did it to Ottman Bakkal while at Ajax. He did it to Branislav Ivanovic while at Liverpool. He has already served a combined 17 matches’ suspension for biting offences. This is not a one-off, this is a pattern of behaviour. This is a pathology. Which makes it all the odder.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the reaction of some afterwards was really telling. Suarez, who appears to bite Chiellini without any provocation, clearly immediately realises he has done wrong, so goes down clutching his teeth to create the subterfuge that it were merely a collision. It wasn’t: it was an assault. The referee, who cannot have eyes in the back of his head, misses the bite and the game goes on, with Suarez in it. His team wins. Not because Suarez bit an opponent, but because they were the more effective side on the day.
Then afterwards, his colleagues immediately come to his defence. It is – as it always is with Suarez – someone else’s fault. The manager Oscar Tabarez accuses the BBC man who asks him a question about it at the post-match press conference of having an agenda. He is from the British press so clearly is under instruction from the secret conspiracy of English media men to do down Uruguayan strikers at every turn.
It is an interesting cabal that one. We are accused of belonging to it all the time. We have an agenda. What, like a village council meeting, with points of order and a chairman and minutes? Item one: pretend that Luis Suarez bit someone to get revenge for the fact Uruguay beat England in the World Cup. Yeah, right. Like we in the media all know that David Cameron is in fact a green lizard from Mars, but we’re in a conspiracy to keep quiet about it.
Much more appallingly, Diego Lugano then blames Chiellini. The Italian is a cry baby, he says. A cheat. A disgrace to the game. Apparently for pointing out that he had been bitten by an opponent, Chiellini is undermining the great moral values of sport. What hogwash. What piffle. What moronic imbecility.
It is exactly what happened when Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra. The then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish rallied round him, made his team-mates wear t-shirts to show solidarity, came up with the laughable cultural differences line. Racially abusing a fellow professional - racially abusing anyone - is an utterly disgusting thing to do. But instead of accepting this and dealing with it appropriately, with Suarez the excuses were made. And still are being. No doubt in the comments under this article.
But the most disturbing reaction came from the player himself. He brushed off the incident as if it were “normal. These things happen all the time on the pitch,” he said. Well, only when you are playing, Luis. No-one else bites an opponent. On three different occasions.
Indeed, that is the saddest thing about this. The man clearly has a problem. It may be anger control, it may be something more substantial than that. But until he is prepared to accept it, confront it and seek assistance for it, he is not going to overcome it. If those close to him, those he trusts, keep telling him what he is doing is fine, and not as bad as trying to break someone’s leg, and it’s only the English media with their agenda that are complaining about it, then he is hardly likely to look to change.
Which is why a ban on its own is pointless. If he is to receive any punishment (and so far it is unclear exactly what procedures FIFA have for taking action after the event from television evidence) it must include a requirement to seek counselling. Football has to do this. He is too special a talent to allow to be compromised in this way. This is the clearest thing of all about what happened yesterday: the man needs help.
- Jim White is in Brazil
- Sports & Recreation
- Luis Suarez
- Giorgio Chiellini