Biting behaviour undermines World Cup thriller in Brazil

World Cups are often remembered as much for displays of ill discipline as for moments of great skill by the world's best footballers. It looks certain that the 2014 finals will be no exception to this trend with the Luis Suarez bite on an Italian defender Giorgi Chiellini generating as much coverage in three days as the sublime skills of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Robin Van Persie over the course of the first two weeks.

From Zinedeine Zidane's headbutt on Italy's Marco Materazzi in the 2006 final to the French player revolt in South Africa in 2010, the sporting world probably believed it had seen it all in terms of controversy at the World Cup. But the primitive behaviour of Suarez this week has raised the bar even higher and left a global audience bewildered that one of the game's greatest talents could succumb to such depths.

The World Cup would be a far less interesting spectacle if it was above reproach, rarely if ever caught in the spotlight for anything other than events on the field of play. But there is a point at which the sport suffers and it was reached this week. Biting is reprehensible at the best of times but when a top sportsperson indulges in the practice with hundreds of millions watching the offence is even more disgraceful.

Up until recently most biting incidents in top class team sports have been confined to rugby with top international players Dylan Hartley and former Springbok Johann Le Roux being suspended for biting opponents during major tournaments. The rugby authorities have been inconsistent in applying bans for the offence, which sends out the wrong message to supporters and players alike. This makes it all the more imperative that Fifa is not accused of the same inconsistency and resists the growing chorus of demands to have the ban reduced. The thrilling tournament that is under way in Brazil deserves to be remembered for the right reasons, not for capitulating to pressure when one of its outstanding players becomes a farcical figure.