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John Brewin profile picture Posted by John Brewin
Jun 26, 2014

No sympathy for Suarez

FIFA has announced their ruling on Luis Suarez's bite of Giorgio Chiellini.

For a split second it was possible to sympathise. Luis Suarez's demeanour as Uruguay celebrated victory over Italy suggested a man who knew that he had let himself down once more. Pitiful postmatch protestations aside, his World Cup was over, and so was the war for hearts and minds. Uruguay had won, but Suarez knew his destiny lay in infamy. He lost control again.

The long ban he receives from FIFA -- four months from all football -- is fully justifiable. Suarez's latest exile will be one spent amid little sympathy. He has cost his country, while Liverpool are left to pick up the pieces. It is his club and their supporters that pay the heaviest price for his latest outrage.

Genuine sympathy must go to others who previously supported his public rehabilitation: family, friends, countrymen, those in the media who have sought out his side of the story. They enter the cycle again. Fewer will feel comfortable in signing up to it. He let them all down.

Suarez now defies polemics. There is no debate to be had; all now know where they stand. The redemption narratives of his outstanding 2013-14 Premier League season are pulped. The latest mindless behaviour takes him beyond reproach. A carefully reconstructed image is ground into dust. No amount of "at home with the Suarez family" or "sit-downs" with cheeky, fun-loving Luis can hide that he plays beyond the edge of reason and decency. The only remaining supportive emotion he now conjures is a contempt-laden pity.

The latest outrage was at a World Cup. All of planet Earth now knows about Suarez. Pictures, gifs and memes of his Chiellini chew traversed the globe before the final whistle had blown in Natal. FIFA, forever guarding an image it wants sanctified, could not let him get away with it. This time, the governing body deserves praise. Suarez needed to be made to suffer. And this has to be a last chance, too.

His previous punishments did little to curb his behaviour. Indeed, it seems that Suarez uses bans as fuel; he feels wronged, while those who criticise are treated to acts of vengeance, as evidenced by his delusional jibes at the English press after his winner against England in Sao Paulo. He is not a man to win gracefully, or to apologise properly for his actions. Each disgrace is eventually justified by its perpetrator attempting to shift blame on all but himself. That cannot be allowed to continue.

If Suarez cannot play without entering such a frenzied state, then he should not be allowed to play top-level football. He has become a danger to others. The leading avenue is to suggest psychiatric help.

Liverpool, though, deserve far better. They have strived to improve Suarez as a public figure, and his personality, yet as soon as he was away from the club he committed another crime against football. Brendan Rodgers clearly believes himself when he describes Suarez as a "wonderful human being" but he must now know that few are likely to share that opinion.

Luis Suarez holds his teeth after biting Giorgio Chiellini

Suarez is lucky he is cosseted by his profession; were someone in normal life to viciously bite someone's shoulder on a high street, then they might be looking at a custodial sentence. Were a sentencing judge to recognise this as your third such offence, then the stretch might extend into years, and there would be the possibility of being sent to the type of institution that deals with offenders whose behaviour extends beyond the criminal and into the mental.

It may have involved an outside party, but Eric Cantona received a nine-month worldwide ban in 1995 for assaulting a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park. Suarez's offence is not as serious as that, but a totting-up procedure might place him for as long a punishment as Cantona. Perhaps he might learn from Cantona's example; the previously firebrand Frenchman received just two bookings in the two seasons he played beyond his ban.

This being professional sport, Suarez still has a future in football. The chances are that he plays his next match at the end of October for a club other than Liverpool, on an even more inflated wage. Sportsmen have been welcomed back after manslaughter, theft, rape, animal cruelty and drugs offences. Suarez will play football again, and rehabilitation -- his fourth lengthy ban in four years -- has to be central to his return. If curbing those instincts makes him less of player, then so be it. Why should opponents have to suffer the consequences of his mania?

There are those, almost exclusively now of Liverpool or Uruguayan persuasion, who will continue to defend him and call the latest ban harsh. Self-interest lies at the heart of that stance, but after Giorgio Chiellini, perhaps they are the most wronged of all. Suarez makes repeated fools of them, including coach Oscar Tabarez and captain Diego Lugano. Both made questionable defences of him in Natal, though Lugano would seem a witting fantasist following Wednesday's accusations of doctored photos.

Beyond that dwindling pressure group, everyone knows this about Luis Suarez: he bites people. That his image was in any way repaired after previous outrages -- which includes using racially offensive language towards Patrice Evra -- represents the power of footballing performance in changing people's minds. However, no matter what he might achieve now, Chiellini and Natal have ended his season in the sun. Only the deluded could pretend not to know what Suarez represents.

The rest of football should not miss him while he's gone. Such is Suarez that they cannot expect a proper apology, either. Any previous attempts at contrition have been accompanied by snide revisionism.

Suarez might count himself lucky. It could have been three bites and out.

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