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Aug 14, 2014

Common sense prevails over Suarez

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez's four-month worldwide ban has been upheld after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was rejected, but he will be able to train with the club.

At last some common sense has come out of the Luis Suarez biting affair, with Thursday's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that the player can, at least, train and play friendly matches with Barcelona.

The verdict to uphold his suspension until Oct. 25 -- but cut him some slack regarding other football activities -- was, somewhat bafflingly, announced six days after Friday's appeal, which was put together by Suarez, Barcelona and the Uruguayan football association.

From a Barca point of view, it comes in time for the player to be able to fully acclimatise to his surroundings before he is allowed to finally play in a competitive game. Suarez can now finally join his colleagues and feel a part of the squad Luis Enrique is building ahead of the start of the new season.

The striker is now likely to be presented to the fans ahead of the Gamper Trophy game -- the traditional Camp Nou season curtain-raiser -- on Monday against Mexican side Club Leon, and should also also make his Barca debut in what is, for now, the last friendly game before the La Liga season opener versus Elche on Aug. 24.

Suarez completed his move to Barcelona on July 11.

However, it would not be a surprise if the club announced a further friendly or two to help Suarez get some match practice, as all eyes now turn to that October date when he will be available for selection, which just happens to be the weekend Barcelona meet Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season.

In truth, Barca could not have realistically hoped for a better verdict, as a shortening of the FIFA ban would have set rolling a whole new process for players to appeal suspensions to the CAS.

While the length of the ban -- which also includes eight matches for Uruguay -- can be argued by parties close to the player as unprecedented until they are blue in the face, the simple fact is that, until now, a world-class player has never been involved in three similar incidents of biting opponents on the field of play.

Suarez now must forget all legal processes and serve his time. Meanwhile, for Barca it is still a major penalty for him to miss the opening eight La Liga and four Champions League matches of the season, but it is not one they were unaware of when they signed him.

Quite frankly, some parts of the FIFA wording of the suspension -- which included him not being able to join his colleagues on visits to children in local hospitals -- were ridiculous.

- CAS upholds Suarez ban, allows training
- Carter: How do Liverpool replace him?

Moreover, although it is understandable that FIFA wanted Suarez to be completely kept out of the public eye and taught a strict lesson for his offence, not allowing him to train was also taking it, perhaps, a step too far and, as his new club argued, restricted his human right to carry out his profession.

Now he will have that chance, and both parties can only benefit from the ruling. Last season, Suarez did not appear too affected when he eventually started the Premier League campaign with Liverpool in late September, after part of the 10-game ban he received for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April 2013 carried over.

A similar reaction will be expected by Barca fans of Suarez, who won the Golden Boot with 31 Premier League goals and was voted player of the year by both his fellow players and the English media.

Suarez will be a huge loss to the English game, and recent comments from the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, who labelled him "an accident waiting to happen" while adding "I can't say I'm sorry to see him go," smacked of sour grapes.

That is an easy sound bite to make for a man part of whose job it is to defend the Premier League, but if, as expected, Suarez is banging in the goals for Barcelona from late October onwards, all will be forgotten about his most recent suspension. Until the next time ...

Suarez is in the last-chance saloon, but if he can settle down and show the form of recent years he will be an asset for Barca. Being able to train and play friendlies is a small step towards helping him do just that.

Dermot Ledwith

Dermot lives and works in Spain, where he watches a lot of football and does freelance work for a number of magazines and news agencies, including AFP, the Press Association, Vavel.com and Soccerex. Follow him on Twitter @dermotled.

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