Little bite in South American media’s views of Suarez

Uruguayans dismiss accusations against striker suggesting there is nothing to see

 Uruguay’s Luis Suarez has been defended by captain and coach. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez has been defended by captain and coach. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 12:50

For Uruguayans it was a bittersweet moment. The national team had just completed its amazing Houdini act from the group of death, eliminating Italy along the way, but commentators on local television were unable to fully savour the moment - contemplating as they were the implications of the latest Luis Suárez controversy.

The man is a living legend in his homeland, where people are fiercely protective of their best player. They vehemently defended him in the Evra racism case, offered understanding after the Ivanovic bite, and supported his every attempt to force his way out of Liverpool.

For his countrymen he is a likeable figure, the poor kid who’s done well, and most are convinced, like his coach Óscar Tabárez, that there is “an evident animosity towards him” on the part of what El País labels “the moralistic British media”.

Video: Luis Suarez biting controversy

Shortly after the game ended, Montevideo’s El Observador newspaper had enlarged the AFP photo of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder rapidly circulating around the world and sniffed: “Was he bitten? The enlarged photo is inconclusive.”

The words of his captain Diego Lugano to local television were also widely reported. “In the photo of Chiellini, that scar is old - you have to be very stupid to believe that scar is from now, very stupid,” he said, accusing the Italian of being a “gossip” going against the code of the dressing room. “He should be more of a man and accept defeat.”

But this morning, reality was settling in. Sepp Blatter stared out over headlines about Fifa’s opening of a disciplinary process against the man who was hailed as Luis IX after his two goals against England.

A somewhat calmer El Observador remains unconvinced that Chiellini was in fact bitten. But its correspondent in Brazil Jorge Señorans concedes that after an exemplary season at Liverpool following his 10-match ban for the Ivanovic bite, “the operation on his knee, the World Cup and the goals against England produced an explosive combination of emotions.”

Across the River Plate in Buenos Aires there was little more than a passing nod to the Suárez incident as the Argentine press heaped praise on their great footballing rival’s achievement in dumping England and Italy out of the World Cup with a team that, in South American qualifying, had looked all but spent.

In the always-irreverent sports daily Olé, Súarez was featured mocked up as a dog and described as Hannibal, but the tone was jocular and lacking the “cheap morality” his coach Tabárez accused the English media of peddling.

Instead most of the focus was on another epic performance from La Celeste. “The Uruguay of miracles. The Uruguay which believes and never stops believing when most have given them up for done.

“The Uruguay that got back up on its feet after the knockdown from Costa Rica in the opener. The Uruguay which downed two giants like England and Italy to spell out: ‘Here I am, here I always am in World Cups’,” waxed Clarín.

In Brazil’s papers there were more gags at Suárez’s expense (or is that Chiellini’s?). “Uruguay with nails and teeth” claimed a headline in Folha. ‘A little kiss on the shoulder’ is the front page of Lance!, several of the letters dripping blood.

Folha’s match report was titled “Appetite” and noted that: “With more hunger for the ball, Uruguay won 1-0, eliminating four times champions Italy, and if they pass Colombia could re-encounter Brazil.”

Among the hosts, the ghost of the Maracanazo is stirring. Rather than dwell on the Suárez bite, a rematch 64 years on from Uruguay’s defeat of Brazil in the 1950 World Cup is what really got the juices of commentator Paulo César Vasconcellos flowing on SporTV last night.

In his column, Juca Kfouri suspected Suárez will be banned before he gets a chance to face Brazil. But he warned: “Cannibalism apart, the Uruguayans showed once again what they are capable of and, believe it, they are capable of anything, as they showed once again after another resurrection, by eliminating England and Italy.”

Rather than outrage, in a South America happy to see one of its own sides wish the mighty Italians arrivederci, Uruguayan football is only stirring up respect.

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