This headline – from just one of the myriad of Suarez articles – sums up Britain’s response: ‘Classy Player, Classless Human Being’. It’s a fair response, an understandable one. Players kick, pull, dive and swear – all in the ‘heat of the moment’. To bite, we as a football-loving nation have decided, is beyond the pale, a step too far.
To defend Suarez’ actions would be spurious – a stab at the contraire with no clear motive. If biting is rare in the English game, then finding someone on the Uruguayan’s side will be rarer. But these aren’t the actions of a clear-thinking individual. Suarez biting Branislav Ivanovic – the second incident of that kind in his career – screams of a man with impulsive anger issues.
The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) should be applauded for their stance on the scandal. They announced their intention to offer anger management counselling to the forward after Sunday’s controversial 2-2 draw in front of The Kop. This shows an apt and inclusive response to the serious issue of mental health. Something a lot of football fans should take notice of.
When Michael Johnson quit football, he didn’t seek solace in the sport he had given his life to, but endeavoured to escape it forever. “I have been attending the Priory Clinic for a number of years now with regard to my mental health,” he told the Manchester Evening News, “and would be grateful if I could now be left alone to live the rest of my life.” This after a picture of him was ridiculed by fans and some press outlets alike.
Football is riddled with problems, each more significant than the last depending on the actions of a few. The pressure applied on footballers and the mental health issues that can manifest cannot be ignored, as is the case with fan violence, racism and sexism – just some of the inherent problems of society that magnify themselves to startling degree in the context of football.
I hope that Suarez, who duly apologised for his actions, can find redemption within the sport and prosper as a result, rather than being forced down a path of ignorance and dismissal. I fear, though, that this latest inexcusable act will see him forced out of England.
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