Pressing Issues: To bite or not bite? That’s the question for Suárez

2014-06-29 15:00

World football governing body Fifa must be commended for acting swiftly in the latest biting incident involving Uruguay and Liverpool striker Louis Suárez.

For the record, Fifa handed the sharp-toothed “genius” a nine-match ban from international matches and also barring him from all football activity for four months.

Fifa media relations manager Delia Fischer aptly stated that “such behaviour cannot be tolerated?...?in particular not at a Fifa World Cup”.

Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini became the third victim of Suárez’s bite. This is also the third time the player is being sanctioned for biting.

His first offence was in the Netherlands while playing for Ajax Amsterdam, when he bit PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal and was handed a seven-match ban. The Dutch media christened him the “Cannibal of Ajax”.

Just 10 months into his Liverpool contract across the Channel, Suárez had to sit out eight matches after racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Lest we forget his other nonbiting sins: he used his hand to stop a goal-bound shot in extra time in the 2010 Fifa World Cup quarterfinal between Uruguay and Ghana.

The resulting penalty was missed by Asamoah Gyan and Suárez’s team-mates went on to deny Africa its first spot in a World Cup semifinal.

Then in April last year, during a Premier League match against Chelsea, the Uruguayan striker bit Branislav Ivanovic, which resulted in a 10-match ban.

For their reaction to Tuesday’s incident, Uruguay President José Mujica, Uruguayan Football Association secretary-general Alejandro Balbi and Uruguayan TV station Tenfield deserved a lemon, or even an onion.

Tenfield was very quick to launch an attack on the English press and went on to remind them that Geoff Hurst’s goal in the 1966 World Cup final did not cross the line.

They claimed in a statement that Suárez “bumped into Chiellini with his face”. Balbi said: “If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers and they open inquiries for them, everything will be way too complicated in the future. We’re going to use all the arguments possible so that [Suárez] gets out in the best possible way.”

As if that was not enough, Balbi stated categorically: “The accusations against Suárez are unfounded and we will prove it.”

Then the country’s Numero Uno citizen, Mujica, waded in with guns blazing, saying there was insufficient proof that Suárez did indeed bite Chiellini.

He went on to describe Suárez as “an excellent player”, as if anyone ever disputed that. Then he offered his pearls of wisdom: “I did not see him bite anyone. But they give each other so many kicks and blows, and normally they put up with it.”

From then, he blamed the media, saying it was actually them who were out to get Suárez and depict him as the bad guy.

It’s twak, but I will leave it to The New York Times, which captured the whole scenario so accurately: “This is how a sports biting scandal works. It begins – as it did when Luis Suárez allegedly bit Giorgio Chiellini – with disbelief. Then comes the introspection phase as analysts try to contextualise the errant chomp.

“Finally, the scandal reaches, as it did on Wednesday in the Suárez case, the blame-the-media phase.”

Well said Fred, is all I can say.

But with all said and done, there must be something seriously wrong with Suárez. Committing a mistake is common, as all humans have their follies. But when you do the same dastardly deed three times, it indicates something is very wrong.

I have heard some people say he is passionate, but if biting people is his way of showing passion, he needs to have his head checked.

So instead of Balbi saying they are “polishing off a defence argument” for Suárez, they should be seeking psychological help for him.

Suárez’s biting incident has reminded the world of other such happenings in the world of sport.

Top of mind is the incident when heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear during a bout in 1997.

The most bizarre one I came across while trawling the internet was that of Sevilla player Francisco Gallardo, who celebrated a goal by team-mate José Antonio Reyes by taking a little nibble on the latter’s jewels (see box, pun intended).

Ouch! Talk about “taking one for the team”, or “biting the big one”, as it were.

But I digress. Just to prove how good Suárez is, despite missing Liverpool’s first six matches of the past season (after the Ivanovic incident), he still managed to finish as the club’s top ?scorer, he shared the European Golden Boot and was named footballer of the year by the Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football?Writers’ Association.

While Suárez’s performances speak directly to what we mean by the term “the beautiful game”, his biting is the ugly side of it. It must be stopped, whatever it takes.

Five infamous Sporting chomps

Stuffing their faces and paying the price

1997: Mike Tyson takes a chunk out of Evander Holyfield

»In one of the most infamous events in the history of boxing, Mike Tyson bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s right ear as he was succumbing to a world title fight defeat. Tyson was disqualified for the dastardly act and lost his boxing licence, although it was later reinstated.

2011: Dylan Hartley bites Ireland’s Stephen Ferris

»Dylan Hartley added insult to injury by biting Stephen Ferris in a ruck during Ireland’s 30-9 defeat to England at Twickenham. Hartley received a 10-week ban.

2006: Jermain Defoe retaliates with his teeth against Javier Mascherano

»The Spurs striker only received a yellow card for a bite on Mascherano when Spurs met West Ham United in a London derby.

2013: Kevin O’Brien has athree-match ban overturned

»The Dublin footballer was given the ban for an alleged biting incident on Donegal forward Paddy McBrearty during a National League match. But the ban proposed by the central competitions control committee was revoked by the central hearings committee, which said the alleged biting offence was not proven. The decision to overturn the ban was heavily criticised.

2001: Francisco Gallardo with one of the most bizarre bites ever

»Sevilla midfielder Francisco Gallardo celebrated a goal by team-mate José Antonio Reyes by biting Reyes’ genitals. Gallardo was fined and suspended for this by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, which said the move violated standards of “sporting dignity and decorum”.–

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