Next time you see one of those World Cup most shocking moments shows on TV, where you get the views of pundits, comedians, and for some reason the hottest star from TOWIE or Made in Chelsea, you’re bound to see Luis Suarez near the top.
Danny Mills told the BBC that he believes the Uruguay forward should be locked up for his bite on Giorgio Chiellini. Alan Shearer was ‘lost for words’, while Robbie Savage called for FIFA to ban the striker for life from international football.
All speaking just minutes after the incident during Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Italy, where Luis Suarez bit an opponent. It was understandable, and debatably agreeable, at the time to see such a reaction from the BBC pundits. Now he’s been awarded his 4 month ban from any football activity, that includes Liverpool fixtures, training with the Reds and even sitting at Anfield, it will be interesting to hear those pundits’ views on the punishment handed down. Now we have had time to reflect on Suarez’s third offence of biting an opponent, is it worthy of a the 4-month suspension? Or is the shock of the animalistic nature of his actions creating a false reaction?
Forgive me for doing so, but I’m going to mention Rugby in a football article. A regular for England’s egg-chasing team is Dylan Hartley, a man who has won over 50 caps for his home nation. But a player who has had more than his fair share of controversies. Hartley was banned for eight weeks for biting the finger of an opponent while on international duty against Ireland. The RFU, the equivalent of the FA, said “The offence merited a low entry point in the International Rugby Board’s table of sanctions”, while one of the England coaches expressed his disappointment that Hartley wouldn’t be available for some upcoming matches. The coach didn’t mention that it was an unacceptable thing to do while wearing the colours of his country, or his shock that the incident occurred. There was no call for a more severe punishment from the rugby community, no uproar at the incident, but instead, everything was quickly forgotten.
This all came five years after he received a 26-week ban for eye gouging two opponents during a club match. Hartley was caught gouging two players on the field of play, an offence which could have easily blinded both players, and received at the time one of the longest bans in English rugby history for a playing offence. Since then, some other players have received bans as long as two years for such crimes.
Nowadays, Hartley may be described by commentators as having poor discipline, but there is little mention of his past misdemeanours. Nobody complains when the forward is picked for England. A player who could twice potentially blinded his opponents, yet it’s all forgotten about.
Yes, Suarez’s bite is shocking. It’s difficult to understand, especially after he has twice been banned for the same offence. And that’s why his ban is so huge now, because it’s a third time. But is that what it is, just shocking? The damage he could have done to Chiellini was minimal. If he had gone for a Mike Tyson job and tried to rip the Italian’s ear off than we would be having a whole different discussion. But in reality, he’s just going to cause the centre-back a lot of pain. It was extremely unlikely he was going to rip off any skin.
So is it worse than eye gouging? Is it worse than Roy Keane? In 2001, the former Manchester United midfielder sought revenge on Alf-Inge Haaland, who had angered the Irishman by accusing him of faking a knee injury a few years ago. During the Manchester derby, Keane saw his opportunity, and caught the Norwegian’s knee with his studs in a shockingly powerful tackle, that effectively ended Haaland’s career. The former Leeds and Manchester City player claims he still feels pain in his knee every day from that challenge, and couldn’t play a full 90 minutes again. It effectively ended his career.
Keane picked up a 3-match ban, before earning a further 5-match suspension after appearing to admit in his autobiography that he intended to hurt his opponent: “I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries”
So if we were to ask Haaland what he would rather be on the receiving end of, Keane’s tackle or Suarez’s bite, I can only imagine he would pick the latter. Would the two rugby players who were gouged by Dylan Hartley rather that incident than having their shoulder munched on by the Liverpool striker? Or maybe that question should be asked to Clarence Harding, an amateur rugby player who is now permanently blinded in one eye after a gouging incident during Sunday league rugby a few years ago.
We already know the FA believe biting is worse than racism, after Suarez picked up a longer ban for his incident with Ivanovic than for racially abusing Patrice Evra, or when John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand. But in perspective, is it actually worse than deliberately attempting to severely injure an opponent? What damage could Suarez have done that was severe? The Liverpool striker’s actions are those that you would never expect to see on a football field. It’s shocking and unbelievable. But is it the worse thing we’ve seen in football? Is it really worse than the 8-match ban for a challenge that effectively ended a career? Is it comparable to an incident where a player risked permanently blinding his opponents, and worth nearly the same punishment? Or does that shock and surprise factor make it seem worse than it is?
Ask yourselves, and Mills, Shearer and Savage, whether you’d rather be on the receiving end of Keane’s career-ending challenge or a bite from Luis Suarez, and then debate the worthy punishment.