Suarez’s biting effect on football

The reputation of football has once again taken an unnecessary blow to its immense global appeal.

Over the years FIFA’s World Cup has been graced by the likes of Pele, Eusebio, Nilton Santos, and a host of others who have given great face to the often-time articulated term “the beautiful game”. The world’s best players have enthralled fan and foe alike, taking them through a series of emotions, sometimes indescribable, but always genuine.

With a global audience estimated at more than a billion, FIFA’s World Cup not only puts the spotlight on the hosting nation but also on every participating country. In this era of mind-boggling technology, the glare of publicity can often be unforgiving. Global spectacles such as FIFA’s World Cup can accentuate both good and bad.

Enter football offender Luis Suarez.

The biter from Salto has thrice ran afoul of football’s hierarchy with his now established propensity for sinking his teeth into the flesh of men. His continued acts of violence have unfortunately diverted attention away from the high quality of his ability. But there are some things greater than sport and some infractions too dastardly to allow punitive escape because of sporting considerations or personal greatness.

Alas, both FIFA and Uruguay have missed a tremendous opportunity to send a definitive message to football carnivores worldwide by their “gentle treatment” of Suarez.

In a world where athletes are banned for two and three years for an assortment of illegal substances if detected in their systems, it seems somewhat ironic that the man who shamed his country, football, FIFA and himself can escape with a short-term ban and a fine.

The sports tenet of three strikes and you are out, obviously doesn’t apply to Suarez. He has feasted on men before and been banned before. Surely FIFA should have gone the route of removing this scourge from the game for a lengthier period, or as has been called for in the British media, for all time.

But it gets worse.

Rather than voice their strongest possible condemnation for Suarez’ latest on-field snack, Uruguayan officials have exacerbated Suarez’ deeds by going the route of blind nationalism.

“We are preparing our appeal now . . . . It is an excessive decision and there was not enough evidence and I have seen more aggressive incidents recently. It is a very severe punishment. I don’t know exactly which arguments they used, but it is a tough punishment for Suarez. It feels like Uruguay have been thrown out of the World Cup . . .,” was the response of Uruguayan Football Association president Wilmar Valdez.

We will not accuse the goodly Valdez of being a mental eunuch but surely if he had watched what transpired between Suarez and Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the week on the field of play, he would have seen what millions around the globe saw – Suarez and Uruguay’s moment of footballing shame.

Passions often run deep in sports, for both players and fans. We have had the lamentable situation of Colombian footballer Andres Escobar shot and killed by a fan after he conceded an own goal at the 1994 World Cup in the United States that led to Colombia’s defeat. Violent on-field actions such as Suarez’s can have far-reaching consequences and must be stamped out.

Uruguay without Suarez is considerably weakened. But the integrity of the game has been even more weakened by the lame response of FIFA and more so by the stance of Uruguayan authorities to treat Suarez as the victim.

Sports officialdom over the years has sought to stamp out cheating in sports with extremely tough sanctions, in some cases, career-ending sanctions.

After the third strike, this should have been the last we heard of Luis Suarez.

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