Time to forget Suarez

2014-06-30 00:00

ANYBODY who didn’t know who Luis Suarez was a week ago certainly does now. The Uruguayan striker’s moment of madness in Tuesday’s final Group D clash against Italy turned the world bonkers as everybody — football follower or not — reacted to what has been the most contentious moment of the World Cup so far.

It was the third time that Suarez was caught biting an opponent on the world stage, and his punishment saw him sent home to Uruguay immediately, where he was greeted by a welcome fit for war heroes.

Suarez is banned from all footballing activity for four months, meaning that he misses a fair amount of the new Premier League season with Liverpool, who are surely the most affected by the decision.

The reaction to the incident has been nothing short of comical. The web was abuzz with memes and one-liners that played on the absurdity of the situation.

Even Uruguayan president Jose Mujica fuelled a laugh when he publicly said that he had not seen Suarez bite anybody. The 76-year-old left-winger clearly missed the highlights reel. Suarez himself said in his statement to Fifa that he had not bitten Giorgio Chiellini, but rather that his face had fallen onto Chiellini’s shoulder. As a result, Suarez says he was left with sore teeth. More comedy.

Fifa’s judgment, which also bans Suarez for nine international matches, has been viewed as harsh by many, including Chiellini. But it is surely justified when one considers that we are dealing with a man who has taken the law into his own hands on numerous occasions on a football pitch. He’s had a few strikes, and this time was a step too far. His exclusion from the World Cup knockouts — Uruguay went out to Colombia on Saturday — would have hurt more than anything, and that is the price Suarez has been made to pay for his immaturity and maliciousness.

It is really quite sad that the foolish actions of one man have commanded this much attention, because outside of this mess there has been a phenomenal tournament going on.

It has been a tournament of upsets so far — Spain, Italy and England all bombing out at the group stages while the likes of Costa Rica, Colombia and even Greece have upset the odds to take their place in the last 16.

There has been drama aplenty as we have witnessed Ronaldo’s World Cup dreams crushed while Messi, Neymar, Van Persie, Robben and Benzema have all set the stage alight.

The football itself has been of the highest quality, and not just from the top teams. It has become almost impossible to call a match with any certainty and the smaller nations have punched above their weight to match the big boys. There have been some simply stunning goals and some of the groups went down to the wire.

The heartache that the Ivory Coast went through after conceding a late penalty to Greece was almost too much to take. Flying the African flag, the Ivorians appeared set to book their place in the second round, but a controversial refereeing decision saw them shattered. The look on the Ivorian faces after the final whistle painted a picture of disbelief and despair.

These are the stories that should be occupying our time. The stories of heroes, late drama and wonder goals. Not stories of players who perform outrageous and barbaric acts that detract from the sport itself.

Football has enough of a bad reputation as it is without people running around biting each other. The diving, the fake injuries, the referee attacks, the incomprehensible wages — there is enough already wrong with football without this garbage thrown into the mix.

Nobody can doubt Suarez’s ability. When he gets it right he is one of the most exciting players in the world with the tools to produce the miraculous. In those times he is a joy to watch — a man oozing passion, commitment and talent. But in big games when things aren’t going his way he can become a different person, and the results don’t benefit anybody. His opponents are cheated; Suarez himself lives to regret his actions and the standards of football and the boundaries of what is considered acceptable on a pitch are challenged.

Many will remember Suarez’s antics at the 2010 World Cup, when his handball on the goal line knocked Ghana out of the quarter-finals. And many will say that he got what was coming to him four years later.

Hopefully he comes back better next season: more mature and repentant. But we have sung this song before.

For now, let’s get back to enjoying the World Cup the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

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