It perhaps speaks volumes about the nature of the hyperbole that’s managed to sweep around the Luis Suarez incident in recent days, that it’s taken Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher of all people, to emerge as the voice of reason.
Following the Uruguayan’s recent bite to the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during the two sides’ 2-2 draw at Anfield on Sunday, the footballing world has quite rightly shown its collective disdain for an act that was as brutishly impromptu as it was freakishly bizarre.
For a 26-year-old man to clasp his jaw around another professional’s arm like that absolutely beggars belief and the fact that Suarez has in fact got previous for the same incident, many have been left wondering with the former Ajax-man truly has a future in the Premier League given his past resume of incidents.
But while it’s important that Liverpool’s number seven is criticized, condemned and dealt with appropriately with retrospective action by the FA, it’s seemed that for some, that’s not quite enough. Far from making him serve his time on the sidelines, the feeling within some quarters is that it’s time for Suarez to pack his bags and leave the Premier League for good.
In recent days, we’ve heard everyone from David Cameron to Mike Tyson weighing in on the Suarez debate, with one rather notorious Fleet Street hack even having the gall to dub the Liverpool striker’s act as one worse than the infamous bite that the latter took out of Evander Holyfield in 1997.
But far from the distant musings outside of English football, it’s been the hypocrisy and damn right lack of judgment that we’ve witnessed from inside the footballing domain that’s been the really disheartening element.
As Carragher elaborated upon in his Mail Online column, while Suarez’s history leaves him in quite some unfavourable stead, he’s not the first person in Premier League history to loose control physically. In fact, when you measure him up against past incidents, his attempted ‘bite’ on Ivanovic doesn’t even see him draw close to the worst offenders we’ve seen.
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Taking the spotlight away from Liverpool for the moment, and in terms of physical incidents that might bring the game into disrepute, Suarez’s nibble on Ivanovic’s arm cannot even hold a candle to the assault that Eric Cantona dished out to Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons back in 1995.
There is a tendency to let bleary-eyed nostalgia and the Frenchman’s cult-status to underplay his now infamous ‘Kung-Fu’ kick, but let’s not forget that Cantona was arrested and charged with assault – one that brought with it a two-week prison sentence before appeal.
But far from being hounded out the country and sold out of disgust, Sir Alex Ferguson did everything in his power to retain his services, following his eight-month ban.
For as uncouth as the sight of Suarez’s bite may have been, it didn’t amount to assault and it most certainly didn’t put the career of another professional in danger, as Roy Keane’s pre-mediated shocker on Alf-Inge Haaland did in 2001.The Ulsterman later admitted he had intentions on going out and ‘hurting’ the Norwegian and he certainly had his desired effect, with his tackle during a Manchester derby playing it’s part in the former Leeds man’s retirement. But of course, that’s nothing compared to Suarez’s peck on the cheek, is it?
But it was listening to one their own – as Carragher so prominently pointed out – that really left you stumbling for words when it came to evaluating the Suarez incident.
There was almost something macabre about Graeme Souness’ public chastising of the Uruguayan during his work as a pundit for Sky Sports on the weekend, as the man who once broke another professional’s jaw during his time at the club, called out Suarez for putting the club in a ‘very very bad light indeed.’
Three European cups or not, a hypocrite is still a hypocrite and regardless of what era you’re in or how football has evolved since 1984, it seems somewhat astounding that Souness can pass opinion on Suarez’s misdemeanor. But far from simply offer conjecture, the damage inflicted by his and others’ take on Suarez has already cast its shadow over Fleet Street.
Let’s make no mistake here – although Suarez hasn’t broke anyone’s jaw or leg, what we witnessed at Anfield was a truly shocking piece of behavior and it feels really quite hard to comprehend that this is something the 26-year-old has already been found guilty of once before. He will take his ban – one would assume a lot longer than just the three games – and rightfully serve it.
But when he returns, let that be the end of it. Suarez’s bite had no place in the game, but it wasn’t a sin that he should have to pay the ultimate price for. Putting Suarez the man to one side, Suarez the footballer is one of the best there is plying his trade in Europe today.
We’ve welcomed back footballers after witnessing far worse crimes than Luiz Suarez’s bite. It’s worth remembering that before the campaign to hound him out of English football sets into full swing.