Fifa left with little option but to make an example of serial offender Suarez

Punishment is severe but, in the circumstances, somewhat inevitable

For a man not much given to modesty, Fifa’s president Sepp Blatter has kept a low profile so far in Brazil.

He has attempted to keep out of shot so as not to provoke mass outbreaks of booing, but whenever he has been glimpsed he has worn a thin smile of satisfaction that the classy, breathless action on the pitch has – for now – banished all talk of Fifa corruption, protests and the venality of the modern game.

Even more than usual, Fifa has used this World Cup as a platform to project its simplistic, brazen moral mission to the world. It can be seen around the perimeter of pitches, in advertising breaks during matches and most strikingly in the bizarre paean to world peace that now precedes every match.

The message: racism is bad, fair play is good and Fifa is working for a better world.

So when Luis Suarez sank his teeth into the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini, Blatter knew that it was an incident that could undermine the carefully constructed rhetoric that he has honed in his scandal-hit years as Fifa president.

Wildest dreams

Even more so than when Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in the final in 2006, he would have known that outrage around Suarez’s latest bite threatened to derail the narrative of a World Cup that has so far exceeded his wildest dreams.

Although it has been continually reiterated that the disciplinary committee is separate from the Fifa executive, its chairman, Claudio Sulser – a former Switzerland striker and long-standing Blatter ally – will have known what was expected of him.

The first priority was to get Suarez out of this World Cup, and most pressingly Uruguay’s match against Colombia. The second to make some sort of statement about Fifa’s commitment to fair play.

In explaining the rationale behind the nine-match international ban and unprecedented four-month suspension from any football-related activities – including even entering a stadium – he achieved this.

“Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a Fifa World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field,” Sulser said.

His statement, though, takes Fifa into potentially interesting waters – essentially offering a moral standpoint as well as a disciplinary verdict.

Fifa made clear on the eve of the verdict that it was up to the disciplinary committee to set the parameters of its remit and decide whether to take Suarez’s long list of previous crimes into account.

In some ways, the pantomime villain Suarez represents a convenient target for Fifa. It is tempting to wonder what it would have done had the offender been Neymar or Lionel Messi.

But the point, surely, is that it was – depressingly, inevitably – Suarez. With all his history, a ban that exceeded the six matches prescribed as the sanction for spitting was surely inevitable.

Popular verdict

And the four-month ban from all football that arguably hits Liverpool as hard as it hits his nation’s hopes at this World Cup may be unprecedented for a player, but is also hard to argue with.

It obviously will not be a popular verdict among the embattled Uruguay camp here or in Montevideo, where the bewildering sense of burning injustice seems genuine if misguided.

Yet for once, and not necessarily for all the right reasons, it seems as though Fifa has got this one right. Move along. Nothing to see. On with the show.

In total Suárez could miss 13 matches: nine in the league, one in the League Cup and Liverpool’s first three games in the Champions League.

Suarez’s first match back for Liverpool could be in the fourth round of the League Cup, which is due to take place in the week beginning 27 October.

He could return in the Premier League on November 1st when Liverpool travel to Newcastle.

His absence from the first three Champions League games will be particularly painful for the club.

Liverpool’s chief executive officer, Ian Ayre, responded to the suspension by saying: “Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the Fifa Disciplinary Committee report before making any further comment.” Guardian Service