He’s the man that everybody is talking about. The footballer on everybody’s lips. Luis Suarez just cannot stay out of the headlines. Just a month or so ago, these headlines were covering the ridiculous amount of personal accolades coming his way. He was winning Player of the Season awards left, right, and centre. He snagged himself the Premier League’s top scorer award, and shared the European Golden Shoe with Cristiano Ronaldo. All that, without a single red card or controversy in sight.
But now, on the biggest stage of all, Luis Suarez has let himself down again. What it is about biting people, I don’t really know. But the little sympathy I had for Suarez last time after the Ivanovic incident, is non-existent now. Biting is hardly crime of the century or likely to result in serious injury, but having gone through this before and suffered the repercussions twice already, there’s no excuse. What’s more, there wasn’t even anything to be gained.
He was hardly re-enacting his hand ball that saved his countries World Cup chances like four years ago. People labelled him a cheat for that, but you could see what Suarez was doing. He was taking one for the team. He received a lot of criticism for it, but in my eyes it wasn’t too different to bringing a player down who otherwise would’ve been through on goal. It might not be ethical within the game, but as long as the red card given and penalty is awarded, it’s pretty much in your rights to make the sacrifice. And this was before Luis Suarez was a Liverpool player, when I felt no burden at all to stick up for him if not necessary.
The bite on Chiellini though, came completely out of the blue in a situation where Uruguay were attacking and needed a goal. And Italy had already had a man of their own sent off, so Uruguay just needed to remain patient and keep pressing forward. Suarez could have thrown their advantage out of the window if the referee had seen the bite. It was never going to be anything but detrimental to his country’s cause.
Now Suarez has landed himself with a four month ban from football, along with a nine game international ban. No more World Cup for him, and he has left his country without their star player for the remainder of the competition. And he will yet again miss the start of a Premier League season.
On the surface, such punishment for a bite may seem harsh. We see pushing and shoving, leg-breaking tackles, and elbows in faces every weekend in football. But all of those things stem from challenges to win the ball. Or at least can be performed under the cover of that motivation. A bite is blatant violent conduct. To do it once, or at a push twice, I’d be willing to say that it was a rush of blood to the head. To do it a third time, after being suitably punished the first two times, was foolish. To do it during the biggest sporting event on the planet, was just plain stupid.
So in that light, Suarez may even have got off lightly. What got me riled up is how Liverpool have got dragged into this. Luis Suarez bit a player whilst representing Uruguay, at an International competition. Yet Liverpool have ended up taking the brunt of the punishment. He’ll miss more games for us than Uruguay, despite his disciplinary record in a red shirt being impeccable for over a year now. And not forgetting that we are the ones paying his wages. Uruguay will miss him for the nine games he’s out, certainly. But we have even more games to play without him, his wages to pay, his fitness to regain, his mentality to manage, and his reputation to restore. Not to mention any transfer difficulties he has caused us. If there were any thoughts in our minds to negotiate with Real Madrid or Barcelona for his transfer this summer, they have just taken a big blow. The likelihood of us wanting to offload him has gone up, while his value has gone down.
Whether or not any appeal by Uruguay or Liverpool will have an effect on his ban is yet to be seen. I am not holding my breath though. It was being touted that Suarez may have to serve a two year international ban, so at nine games I don’t think Uruguay can feel too hard done by here. So it will be up to Liverpool to plead our case, but Fifa are likely to take the stance that the punishment is aimed directly at Luis Suarez, and us getting screwed over is just an unfortunate consequence.
It’s Brendan Rodgers and the staff and players at Liverpool that I feel most sorry for. We’d set ourselves up this summer in a wonderful situation to fully prepare ourselves for a massive season ahead. But now a lot of that has just gone out of the window. With Champions League football secured, Suarez having signed a new contract, and every other player happy and settled at the club, we held all the aces and could go through summer with no pressure and everything happening on our terms and ours alone. But now we’ve got to deal with all the baggage that Suarez has brought back with him from his brief trip to Brazil. For a summer where he was supposed to light up the footballing world and put his bad reputation behind him, Luis Suarez has once again managed to drag his name through the mud. And like last time, we’re left to pick up the pieces.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)