Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mega bite

It's one of the voicemail messages a parent least welcomes: "Hello Mrs. Suarez, it's the school here. I'm sorry to report, but your boy Luis has been involved in another 'biting incident' with a boy from another class. This time we have to take it very seriously indeed. Could you come in to school to meet with the headmaster?"

Up to a quarter of all toddlers will bite another, apparently. Child psychologists say such behaviour could be a response to being over-stressed by another child, to seek attention, or through an inability to express themselves properly through speech. Others, however, do it because they're copying other children.

So, then, Luis Suarez. What adult (of 27 summers) goes around biting another? Anywhere. Under any circumstances. And especially for a third time in your professional career.

I'm no psychologist, but there is clearly something mentally wrong with Suarez to apparently do something that impulsive for a third time when under the sort of normal duress any footballer faces in a match. "If it's happened before, it'll happen again," sports psychologist Tom Fawcett has told the BBC. The almost unfortunately-named Dr. Fawcett suggests that this is just Suarez's nature and no amount of therapy is going to get it out of his system. "The formative years of people's development do contribute to their personality," Fawcett told the BBC." If you look at his history, Suarez had a fairly hard upbringing, which would have been fighting for survival - he was streetwise."

Reuters/Tony Gentile
Streetwise or not, not even in the most feral urban cultures do you find people biting each other like rats. Shooting and stabbing, yes, but not sinking incisors and canines into someone else. The fact that the Uruguay and Liverpool striker has done this twice before - last year, when he bit into Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and in 2010, while playing for Ajax, when he applied his fangs into PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal - makes a third incident, even after therapy, unbelievable.

Biting can happen in any close-quarter sport: in football, Jermain Defoe was accused of biting Javier Mascherano on the arm in 2006; South African rugby player Johan le Roux was banished from a 1994 tour of New Zealand after biting the ear of opponent Sean Fitzpatrick. And, of course, Mike Tyson actually separated part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a world heavyweight title fight in 1997. 

There's no excuse for such bestial behaviour, however, even if you are Mike Tyson. In all three bites involving Suarez, it is clear that frustration has played its part. But now you have have to wonder what frustration Suarez will experience if punished retroactively for the alleged bite on Chiellini. 

The irony of all this happening on the day England began their sorrowful trudge home is that Suarez getting banned could end up being the one crumb of comfort for English fans. Suarez is a brilliant striker: his redemption last season at Liverpool manifested itself with two excellent goals against England, for which he clumsily tried to explain were inspired by his mistreatment by the British media.

Until yesterday, he had a point. Suitably rehabilitated after the Ivanovic incident, Suarez turned himself into one of the most vital players with a ball at his feet in the Premier League last season. But one moment of madness, one moment of frustrated insanity, and again the world is looking at Suarez like football's own Hannibal Lecter. Brilliant, but don't let him into your mind. Or your shoulder blade.

For all his mercurial wonder, there is clearly a very dark side to Luis Suarez, and one that doesn't appear to be tameable. If you ignore his childlike petulance - his tendency to fall down as if felled by a sniper armed with a Barrett M107 - his viperous response to being persistently hassled by defenders is one that should genuinely raise questions about his future in the game. Because in his past there is too much to show that he is just not right in the head (a popular tale well told is that as a teenager he severely headbutted a referee - that should have been a warning). When he's not biting opponents, he's racially abusing them, as he did to Patrice Evra in 2011, warranting an eight-match suspension.

This time Suarez should recognise that his entire footballing career is on the line, if the incident with Chiellini is proven (at time of writing he has been charged by FIFA). Television pictures appear to show Suarez biting into the Italian's shoulder, with the player also showing clear indentations in his shoulder blade. Suarez denies it and blames Chiellini for shoving his shoulder into him).

To add to the confusion, Suarez's teammates are rallying around him Uruguay captain Diego Lugano typifying the denial, even echoing the anti-British media belligerence that Suarez himself had been expressing last week. "What incident?" Lugano told the BBC. "The [television] pictures don't show anything. They show an approximation." And he added, "Everybody knows the British media have an issue with Suarez. It must sell newspapers in England."

That may be so, but television pictures and the circumstantial evidence of dental indentations in Chiellini's left shoulder might suggest otherwise.

The punishment for biting Ivanovic was a ten-match ban. It would be reasonable to expect FIFA to take a very dim view of Suarez being found guilty of a repeat offence, carried out on football's biggest stage. Although the referee in Uruguay's 1-0 win over Italy didn't actually see the Chiellini incident, the world's cameras did. At the very least, Suarez can expect his World Cup to be over. At the very worst, will he find himself ejected from Liverpool (which he apparently wants, anyway) and if so, who would then have him?

A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence Of The Lambs

No comments:

Post a Comment