Uruguay have been chomping at the bit to get Barcelona star Luis Suarez back into their international team. The striker, who has been extremely vocal about his ‘international appetite’ has returned to Uruguay training for the first time since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The former Liverpool striker was banned from nine competitive international matches by a FIFA panel, after viciously sinking his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s World Cup group stage victory over Italy.
This was the third time Suarez had been found guilty of biting an opposing player in a competitive match, following incidents from his time with Ajax and the infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic whilst playing for Liverpool against Chelsea.
Suarez received an additional fine for his behaviour and was banned from taking part in any football-related activity for four months – disrupting him from training with his teammates after he moved to Barcelona in the summer transfer window.
The Uruguayan’s ban has now passed and he linked up with his team-mates in Montevideo to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Peru.
Immediately after the game, Suarez tried to dismiss the incident, telling Uruguayan television:
“These are just things that happen out on the pitch. It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder.”
Luis Suarez, 2014
Although, clearly appreciating in hindsight that it benefits his cause to appear remorseful, the striker seems genuinely remorseful for his rabid conduct. However, that hasn’t stopped him from insisting that his punishment was too harsh and biting back at FIFA’s well publicised issues:
“I made a mistake,”
“But there was no logic to the punishment. For four months I was not even allowed to train with my club.
“I was punished more than if I had taken drugs. But everyone gets what they deserve and you only have to look at how FIFA is now and that tells you everything you need to know [about them].”
I’m inclined to disagree with Suarez, I don’t believe that La Liga’s current top scorer should ever have been given the opportunity to play for his country again.
One rash act of spontaneous indiscretion, whilst still a punishable offence, can potentially be forgiven provided the individual shows remorse and reform. Three identical acts of biting is frankly disgraceful – it’s disgraceful on Suarez’s part, but perhaps more disgraceful that as a culture, football is willing to overlook his disgusting actions in favour of having his talents on the pitch.
Speaking after the incident in Brazil, former Liverpool defender and father, Mark Lawrenson explained why he felt the suspension should have been longer:
“Say my boy was about 11 or 12, how do you explain to your lad who’s a football fan exactly what Luis Suarez keeps doing?”
Mark Lawrenson, 2014
By allowing Suarez to return to international football, what precedent are we setting as a sport? Where do we draw the line and say ‘Ok, you’ve crossed the line there’?
Football has manifested a sporting culture where you leave your morals at the door – if you’re pretty good at kicking a ball around, it’s alright to assault someone on the pitch, you’ll get a slap on the wrist, but within a year you can be hailed as the best striker in the world again.
I’m fine with Suarez serving his time and returning to club football after an absence, but I don’t feel like he’s suffered any lasting punishment for physically biting an opponent… for the third time.
Three strikes and you’re out is perhaps one of sports most widely applicable matras, surely it should have been applied with respect to Suarez’s international career.