Luis Suarez facing World Cup expulsion after latest bite claims
Fifa charge Uruguay striker and he has until tonight to provide evidence to support his case
Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini complains to the referee and claims he was bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez.
As the final whistle went in Natal to confirm that Uruguay had beaten Italy to progress to the second round of the World Cup, a deep roar of triumph went up from the 15,000 Uruguay fans at the Estadio das Dunas.
The Uruguay players, who had given everything in a physical, ugly match against a technically superior team, ran to each other to celebrate in the middle of their half. They were joined by the staff and substitutes, who ran from the sidelines in their silly Fifa bibs.
Only one player failed to join in. Uruguay’s number nine lay still on his back near the half-way line. Just as he had at Selhurst Park last month, he had pulled the top of his shirt up over his face. But for the fact that Luis Suarez was all in white, you would have assumed he was one of the defeated Italy players.
Video: Luis Suarez biting controversy
It was a far cry from Suarez’s joyous reaction after the match against England, when he was chaired onto the pitch by exultant team-mates.
Within a few minutes, Giorgio Chiellini would allege that Suarez had bitten him on the shoulder during a tussle that took place in the 80th minute of the match.
Challenged FifaThe Italian directly challenged Fifa to take action: “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. The referee saw the bite mark too, but he did nothing about it.”
This morning Fifa charged the striker and the Uruguayan FA have been given until 5pm local time (9pm irish time) tonight to provide evidence to support his case. Fifa’s disciplinary code sets a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years, which would obviously rule Suarez out of Saturday’s encounter against Colombia in Rio de Janeiro and, if they overcome Jose Pekerman’s side, any subsequent World Cup fixtures.
The mixed zone last night at Das Dunas was chaos as journalists waited for Suarez to come through. After a delay of nearly 90 minutes, the player at last strode through the door in a dark suit and hurried through the player corridor, declining to speak to the waiting media, but pursued by shouted questions: “Luis, did you bite Chiellini? Luis, did you bite him?” Suarez kept walking, head down, grinning nervously.
It was a strange way for a man who had just helped his side to qualify for the second round of the World Cup to behave, unless there was a particular question he was keen to avoid. He spoke briefly to TV cameras in the flash zone, but said little about the incident except: “These things happen in the box.”
The Italy manager, Cesare Prandelli, who resigned after his team’s defeat, admitted he hadn’t seen the offence in real time. “I only saw the bite mark on Chiellini’s shoulder,” he said.
Uruguay playersDiego Lugano, Uruguay’s captain, defended Suarez: “What did you see?” Lugano asked. “You saw it? 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.
“The worst of everything is the attitude of Chiellini,” added Lugano. “It doesn’t fit with Italian football to have a sportsman leaving the field crying and making claims against a rival.”
When it was put to Lugano that Chiellini appeared to have teethmarks on his shoulder, he suggested that they were probably old scars.
Last night, the Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez was pleading the fifth, and insisting his player was the victim of a media agenda: “I didn’t see that. And if it happened the referee probably didn’t see it. So no I don’t have any more comments to make . . . Suarez, for all the mistakes he may have committed, is the target of a certain sector of the press.”
Tabarez’s loyalty to his most talented player is understandable but it is difficult at this moment to see how the forward could play any further part in the World Cup.
The TV footage shows Suarez dipping his head towards Chiellini’s shoulder and appearing to bite down, in an incident strongly reminiscent of his bite on Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield in April 2013. Photographic evidence shows indentations on Chiellini’s shoulder, and the Italian has made it clear what he thinks happened.
Evidence gatheredIf the evidence gathered by Fifa supports Chiellini’s accusation, it would be the third time Suarez has bitten an opponent on the field of play in the last four years.
He has already served a combined 17 matches’ suspension for biting offences.
Only days ago, Suarez revealed his annoyance at the media’s habit of repeatedly referring to his past-biting incidents. He was angered by the Sun’s front page on the day of the Uruguay-England match, which featured a picture of England players baring giant photoshopped fangs. Suarez said: “Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years.”
Those who laughed at him before will never stop laughing now.
Suarez hates being laughed at, but it’s the people who aren’t laughing that he should be worried about. There are also those who are angrily demanding Suarez be hit with an exemplary ban. Fifa have the power to impose a ban of up to 24 matches.
Regardless of the scale of any sentence imposed by Fifa, there will ultimately be a greater sadness for Suarez.
When he bit Ottman Bakkal at Ajax, it seemed a bizarre anomaly. The repeat offence at Liverpool was a deviant act of aggression that for many, confirmed their negative impressions about him.
Now he has done it for a third time in his national team colours, on the world’s highest stage. For his career, this is worse than tragedy: it’s farce.
Suarez is one of the most gifted players in the game, but what he did last night confirmed that he will be remembered above all for biting people. He has sealed his place in football history and it turned out to be a place nobody ever wanted.