Uruguay Star Barred 9 Games and 4 Months in Biting Incident

7 years, 12 months ago - June 27, 2014
Luis Suárez, the enigmatic striker from Uruguay who has starred for Liverpool in England’s Premier League, was suspended for nine games and barred from all soccer-related activities for four months Thursday after FIFA’s disciplinary committee determined that he bit an opponent during Uruguay’s 1-0 World Cup victory over Italy.

Suárez, who had previously been suspended twice for biting opponents, was also fined 100,000 Swiss francs, or about $112,000.

FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, announced the punishment at its daily World Cup briefing in Rio de Janeiro, taking quick action in response to Tuesday’s incident. Suárez’s ban is the longest World Cup suspension issued for an on-field action, surpassing the eight games Mauro Tassotti of Italy received for elbowing an opponent in 1994, and will begin immediately.

If Suárez appeals the decision, the appeal will only delay his payment of the fine, FIFA said; it will not delay his suspension. So Uruguay, which faces Colombia in a Round of 16 match on Saturday in Rio, will be without its top player for the rest of the tournament and beyond.

Liverpool, the popular Merseyside club that finished second in the Premier League last season behind 31 goals from Suárez, will not have him available until the end of October unless his penalty is reduced on appeal. According to next season’s calendar, Suárez will miss nine Premier League games, three Champions League matches and one match in the League Cup. He will also miss Liverpool’s summer tour of the United States, which includes exhibition games in Charlotte, N.C.; New York; Chicago; and Boston.

The suspension does not cover a possible transfer — Suárez has been rumored to be considering a move to Spain — meaning Suárez could switch clubs during the summer transfer period.

Extending the ban to cover all soccer activities, including participation with a club team, was an unusual decision by FIFA, but it showed the organization’s contempt for Suárez’s actions and possibly for the earlier incidents.

“Such behavior 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,” Claudio Sulser, the chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, said in a statement.

The incident took place near the end of a match in which Uruguay and Italy struggled to generate attacking chances. Ten minutes before the end of the game, with the score tied, 0-0, Suárez ran into the penalty area and collided with Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. Suárez appeared to drop his face into Chiellini’s shoulder, and Chiellini immediately recoiled as both players fell to the ground.

Chiellini pulled his shirt collar to the side and tried to show the referee bite marks on his shoulder while Suárez rolled on the ground, seemingly feigning a painful injury to his mouth.

Afterward, Chiellini condemned Suárez for what he said was a painful bite. “Suárez is a sneak,” Chiellini said. “I’d love to see if FIFA has the courage to use video evidence against him.”

Suárez denied that he had bitten Chiellini — he said he had run into Chiellini’s shoulder and “nothing more” — but FIFA announced on Tuesday night, hours after the match, that its disciplinary panel would open an investigation into the incident and would use all resources, including video replays and witness statements, to reach a speedy decision.

While Uruguay’s coach, Óscar Tabárez, and some of Suárez’s teammates staunchly defended him, reaction from soccer officials around the world seemed to indicate little patience with Suárez given his history. During an appearance at Rio’s Estádio do Maracanã that coincided with the announcement of the ban, the former Brazilian star Ronaldo tried to keep his distance from Suárez.

“Why do you want my opinion on Suárez?” he said in Portuguese. “I never bit anyone.”

Suárez was barred for seven games in 2010 after biting an opponent while playing for the Dutch team Ajax; that incident earned him the nickname the Cannibal of Ajax from a Dutch newspaper. Suárez’s rights were sold to Liverpool just as that ban ended, and in 2013 he was caught on video biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during a match. That led to a 10-game suspension and a rebuke from Premier League officials for not appreciating the “seriousness” of the charges after he argued that he deserved a lighter penalty.

Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s chief executive, said in a statement after Thursday’s announcement in Brazil, “Liverpool Football Club will wait until we have seen and had time to review the FIFA disciplinary committee report before making any further comment.”


Text by The New York Times

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