Luis Suarez is a striker for Liverpool, is from Uruguay, and is on the short list for PFA Player of the Year. Last Sunday, he bit Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic on the arm during the second half of the match. The referee did not see it. Suarez went on to hit a dramatic 97th-minute equalizer goal (the game ended in a 2-2 draw). Video from the match showed the bite clearly. Suarez has since apologized both to the public and to Ivanovic personally. And he’s now been hit with a 10-game ban which keeps him off the pitch in England until October.
Part of the reason is that he’s done this before. From the New York Times:
Suárez is a repeat offender, having been suspended for seven games by the Dutch Football Association for a malevolent munching of PSV’s Otman Bakkal in 2010. One imagines that number will be the starting point for England’s Football Association in this instance because the video evidence is all but incontrovertible and Suárez earned the nickname the Cannibal of Ajax after his previous mastication.
His casual attitude about the bite is the reason the Football Association gave for the harsh punishment:
Luis Suarez had not fully appreciated the gravity and the seriousness of this truly exceptional incident because he believed a three-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic was sufficient.
But also, Twitter played a role? According to The Telegraph:
The fact that Luis Suárez’s attack on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic was seen by “millions of viewers” and became “the top trend on Twitter worldwide” during Sunday’s Premier League match at Anfield was cited as justification for the controversial 10-game ban imposed on the Liverpool striker.
Like all controversies from the English Premier League, this has caused reactions from all sorts of people and the responses range widely.
I made my own views clear, just as a dad watching the game, which is, I’ve got a seven-year-old son who loves football, loves watching football and when players behave like this it just sets the most appalling example to young people in this country.
One could say something about how the Prime Minister’s horrific politics that are stripping the social safety blanket out from under the most vulnerable in the UK is perhaps a worse example of behavior for young people but this isn’t the place for that.
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina said that part of the reason the ban is so long is that Suarez is not English:
People in England are treating him different because he is Uruguayan; because he has had a previous episode like this. He knows full well that what he did was wrong but a 10-game ban seems to me absurd, out of proportion and unfair. It seems that the people making the decisions have got it in for Luis a little bit. That’s the way I see it.
While it’s not as bad as other parts of the world when it comes to issues of racism within the sport, the English Premier League is also not innocent of it either.
What the cameras failed to show us was the actual injury to the Ivanovic arm. The main reason being that if there was one, it was so minor as not to be visible. A friend’s ageing terrier would have done more damage and she has no teeth left.
It has been noticeable that the Chelsea defender has made no fuss since and has accepted an apology from Suárez.
Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive, responded to critics of the ban who pointed out that Suarez’s bite fielded him a bigger punishment than he had received for racial abusing Patrice Evra on the pitch:
It is not easy to get justice right. (Suarez) got seven (for biting in Holland), eight (for Evra) and now 10. There has been a divided opinion. For some people it is not enough, others think it is too much. I take the view if there are points being made on both sides the balance is probably right. I actually feel there was needed to be more encouragement for the player to improve his behaviour and maybe the ban could have been longer, say 12 matches, with some of it suspended. I don’t think there is a suggestion the FA think biting is more serious than racial abuse.
Des Lynam of The Telegraph calls Suarez flawed but a flawed genius:
It is a shame of course that this most gifted of players has a character flaw that constantly detracts from his wonderful skills. I actually enjoy watching him play even more than Robin van Persie, and I have no commitment to either of their clubs.
There have been two incidents of this type of scenario. One player received no ban and continued to be chosen by the FA as part of the England squad. The second player received a five-game ban – so as you can imagine when Luis Suarez receives a 10-game ban it is very difficult to understand, and even more so for Luis. For him to receive that (10-match ban), when the comparisons of the similar incidents is somewhat different, then that is what is hard to take.
Roberto Mancini, Manchester City boss, has now said:
He made a mistake, he said sorry to everyone. Do you want to kill him? I don’t know Suarez as a man, I know him as a player and this year he was one of the best in the Premier League. He has got his punishment. It’s finished.
As @StellaTex tweeted last weekend after Suarez’s 97th-minute goal:
It’s so confusing! How are we supposed to feel about Luis Suarez???
I’m actually enjoying all of this dialogue. There appears to be no master narrative. Many are using it as an opportunity to laugh at Suarez. Many are opining over his continuing bad behavior. A contingent want him sacked. Another thinks it is too harsh of a punishment. Liverpool is beside themselves as their best player – by far – takes a prolonged seat on the bench.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter as Suarez will not appeal the ban and we won’t see him in a Liverpool kit for quite a while. I imagine he’ll keep his mouth to himself in the future. Time will tell, I suppose.