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Luis Suarez departs greatest stage in disgrace

Emmet Malone reports from Brazil where there is agrave sense of injustice in the Uruguayan camp

Uruguay arrived at a hotel in Rio de Janeiro last night, June 26th, after their last group stage match against Italy without star striker Luis Suárez, who was banned by FIFA for nine matches after biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini. Video: Reuters

Uruguayan officials insist they will fight to have him reinstated but Luis Suarez’s World Cup looked to be over yesterday after Fifa dismissed the case made in his defence, banned the 27-year-old striker for nine competitive international games and banished him from all football for four months.

The player was absent yesterday as the Uruguay squad trained in Natal before its flight to Rio de Janeiro, where the team is scheduled to face Colombia on Saturday.

Fifa officials confirmed that Suarez was to have his tournament accreditation withdrawn, a move that will effectively prevent him from even staying on with the group for the remainder of the tournament.

His punishment for biting the shoulder of Italian opponent Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday specifically includes a ban on his attending Uruguay games, but the loss of his official pass means he would not even be allowed into Fifa hotels, something that has exacerbated the already inflated sense of injustice amongst the country’s football officials.

“It is an excessive decision,” said Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) president Wilmar Valdez. “There was not enough evidence and I have seen more aggressive incidents recently.

“It is a severe punishment. I don’t know exactly which arguments they used but it is a tough punishment for Suarez. It’s feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup. We all know what Suarez means to Uruguay and to football around the world – not having Suarez would be a loss to any team.”

‘Our appeal’

“We are preparing our appeal now,” Valdez concluded, “we have three days to do it,” although he did not express the slightest optimism that the player’s sentence would eventually be overturned; never mind that he might be available for the Colombia game.

Given the scale of the sanction and the flimsiness of the case for the player, they are right, it seems, not to get their hopes up although with so much room for manoeuvre, Suarez’s club side Liverpool will be hoping that Fifa’s appeals committee, to which the case goes next before a likely reference to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), at least rows back somewhat on what is the stiffest penalty ever handed out in these circumstances.

As things stand, Liverpool would be without their best player for a total of nine Premier League, three Champions League and one League Cup game, with Suarez set to return in the final days of October for the following round of the League Cup, if the team makes it that far, before being eligible for a league game for the first time on November 1st, when the club is currently scheduled to visit Newcastle.

Amongst the games he is set to miss are the visits in August to Manchester City and Tottenham as well as the first derby game of the season, at home to Everton, in September.

It is a bitter blow to a club that has endured a great deal in order to retain his services. Its owner, John W Henry, and manager, Brendan Rodgers, must have thought that things had turned a corner with the success of last season when Suarez was outstanding and played a critical part in Liverpool’s sudden re-emergence as title contenders.

They will be bitterly disappointed, too, that his punishment has been extended to all aspects of the game – he will not even be able to train with the squad until it is up – given that the convention in such circumstances was bans applied only to the international matches.

And while the AUF might argue that the length of the international ban suggests they are effectively being punished for what has happened previously in his club career – once they abandon the far more untenable position of protesting his innocence – it is a somewhat harder case to make.

His innocence

They certainly seem determined to maintain his innocence to the end, however, with team captain Diego Lugano tweeting yesterday: “A hug to Luis...We all would like a fairer world, but that world simply doesn’t exist.”

The club, for the moment at least, is being more circumspect. However, it was giving little away about how it plans to proceed with a statement issued by the its managing director, Ian Ayre, simply 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.”

In response to a request for clarification on the matter, Fifa did make it clear that Suarez could change clubs during the ban and selling him must be one of the options Liverpool will consider.

That, though, like keeping him, is a huge gamble because he has been so central to so much of the progress made over the past couple of seasons at Anfield and replacing him would be immensely difficult if not actually impossible.

Adidas, a major tournament sponsor, said it “fully supports Fifa’s decision”, adding that the company “certainly does not condone Luis Suarez’s recent behaviour and we will again be reminding him of the high standards we expect from our players.

“We have no plan to use Suarez for any additional marketing activities during the 2014 Fifa World Cup. We will discuss all aspects of our future partnership directly with Suarez and his team following the World Cup.”

On top of everything else, Fifa have fined Suarez just over €80,000 but that will scarcely merit a mention, one suspects, on anyone’s part during the coming days. Combined, the other sanctions represent a clear message, and this was echoed by Claudio Sulser, chairman of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, who said in the official statement issued by the organisation: “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. The Disciplinary Committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suarez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code.”

Whether the appeals committee of CAS decides the punishment is excessive, expecting them to exonerate the player seems utterly fanciful. His World Cup dream is in tatters, his reputation again in shreds.