The Two Sides of Luis Suarez
Controversy always seems to follow Luis Suarez, or maybe it’s the other way around. In the latest chapter of the ongoing saga that is his life, Suarez was in the middle of the World Cup’s biggest incident so far. In the 79th minute of a 0-0 game between Uruguay and Italy, Luis Suarez got into an altercation with Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. Suarez inexplicably appeared to dig his teeth into Chiellini’s shoulder. Yes, it appeared that he bit him.
In the immediate aftermath, Suarez fell to the ground clutching his face, while Chiellini ran to the referee, who missed the incident, to plead his case. Chiellini exposes his shoulder showing the referee the teeth marks left by the Uruguayan forward, which fell on deaf ears, as nothing was done.
In the minutes that followed, two things happen. Gabi scores a header off of a corner kick to give Uruguay at 1-0 lead over Italy, which was enough to punch their ticket into the next round. And Luis Suarez becomes a global sensation. In today’s insta-culture with social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine, the incident took on a life of its own, becoming the trending topic everyone was talking about.
After missing Uruguay’s first game, Luis Suarez rushed back from his knee injury to play in the following two matches of the group stage. In true Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fashion, which has haunted Suarez’s entire career, the two performances in those games couldn’t have been more different.
In the first game, which was deemed as a must-win against England, Suarez was majestic, netting home both goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 victory. This was ‘The Good’ Suarez - the Suarez that seems to always be in the right place at the right time. The Suarez that took the Premier League by storm this past season. The Suarez who, coming into this World Cup, was considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the world.
But perhaps the only thing keeping Luis from reaching the heights of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is himself. This was more than evident in the incident with Chiellini yesterday. After a timid first half with no team really gaining a stronghold on the game, you got the sense that something would have to give between these two storied teams. Uruguay knew that the only way to keep their World Cup dreams alive was with a win over the Italians, and they came out with a clear aggression in the second half.
In the first major talking point of this game, Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio left a heavy tackle on Egidio Arevalo Rios, which led to a straight red card. After his expulsion, the game's intensity was clearly amplified, with both sides desperate to get the result they needed to advance. Italy was happy to sit back and absorb the Uruguayan attacks, while Uruguay grew more and more desperate as the time ticked on. After a very lively 20 minutes, the only way to describe what happened next was that Luis Suarez succumbed to a moment of pure and utter madness.
The worst part about this entire scenario for soccer fans and Suarez is that this isn’t the first time he has bitten or attempted to bite an opponent. In 2010 while playing for Ajax in Holland, Suarez bit PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder, which led to a seven-game ban. In 2013, he was suspended 10 games for biting Chelsea’s Branislov Ivanovic on the arm.
After the incident last year, Suarez seemed to be very remorseful, "I am deeply sorry for my inexcusable behavior earlier today during our match against Chelsea," he said. "I have tried to contact Branislav Ivanovic to speak to him personally. I apologize to my manager, playing colleagues and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for letting them down."
This wasn't the same reaction he displayed after the incident with Chiellini saying, “These things happen in the box.” That's not only a slap in the face to all of the fans across the world who live, breathe and bleed this spot, but also to all of the players who are now being looked at in the same cynical light.
Chiellini was livid after the game stating, “Suarez is a sneak and he gets away with it because FIFA wants their stars to play in the World Cup. I’d love to see if they have the courage to use the video evidence against him. The referee saw the bite mark too, but he did nothing about it.”
These are strong words from a well respected player who clearly felt the referee did the soccer community a disfavor in his treatment of a situation with so much at stake. FIFA vice president and head of the referees committee, Jim Boyce, expressed major concerns about Suarez's actions, "I have watched the incident several times on television. There is no doubt Luis Suarez is a fantastic footballer but, once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism.”
That quote right there is Luis Suarez in a nutshell. He drives you mad, both with his insane talent and his lack of judgment. FIFA is investigating the situation and they're sure to come down with a swift reaction. Some people are calling for a lengthy ban, which would exceed a tallied number of games to be suspended. Instead, they're looking for a time frame such as two months, six months, or maybe even a year ban from the sport.
Others feel stripping him the ability to play in the World Cup would be punishment enough, seeing as how much that would hurt any player.
But in the end the greatest disservice is done to Uruguay as a team and a country who set their hopes and dreams in the hands of Luis Suarez. It's evident from the first game against Costa Rica, Uruguay is an entirely different team with Luis on the field. This is why the Uruguayan FA are standing firmly behind Suarez with manager Oscar Tabarez stating, "Suarez, in addition to errors that he may have made, is a target for certain sections of the media. If we believe people are attacking him, as has happened in this press conference, then we're going to defend him.”
They will stand behind Luis until the end because, deep down, they know that the only way Uruguay will live up to their 22.63% chance to advance to the quarterfinals is with him playing.
It has been long said that talent overshadows character. And while this may be true in most circumstances, it surely can't be the case in this one. On the heels of Luis Suarez’s third offense for the same volatile action that has spurned so much anger, hate and interest around the world, FIFA must make a moral stand here. The problem is you’re asking one of the most immoral federations in the world to judge this offender and come down with a fair ruling. I wouldn’t hold my breath.