Rio de Janeiro: World football governing body FIFA has been accused of many things in recent months — that is not paying tax in Brazil to allegations that its representatives accepted bribes to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup.
But its handling of the Luis Suarez biting furore cannot be faulted, reports.
The Zurich-based body acted in a swift and decisive manner in handing down a four-month ban to the Liverpool forward Thursday.
The decision sends a clear message that nobody is above the game, even when it concerns one of its brightest stars in its showpiece tournament.
Suarez’s nine-game international ban is the most severe in World Cup history.
The previous longest was an eight-game suspension handed to Italy’s Mauro Tassotti in 1994 for breaking the nose of Spain’s Luis Enrique with an elbow.
There are many that have questioned Suarez’s mental health, some even suggesting he is suffering a pathological condition. But regardless of any medical concerns, FIFA had to act on the facts before it. And they were compelling.
If the teeth marks on Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder were the prime exhibit in the case against the 27-year-old, they were far from the only factor.
Suarez has twice before been banned for biting.
He served a seven-match ban for sinking his teeth into PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in 2010 and was last year suspended for 10 matches for the same infraction against Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.
Biting, as some commentators have noted, is what children or animals do. Not grown human beings and certainly not footballers playing in the game’s premier event, watched by a global television audience of billions.
While FIFA should be applauded for its response to the incident, the same cannot be said of Uruguay’s football federation.
Oscar Tabarez’s team will be severely weakened by Suarez’s absence for the rest of the tournament.
But the damage to the football federation’s reputation might be even greater.
Federation officials accused the world’s media of a campaign against Suarez and even claimed photographers used photoshop to make the bite marks on Chiellini appear worse.
Coach Oscar Tabarez said after his side’s victory over Italy that “this is a World Cup, not cheap morality.” He missed the point.
As did the president of the Uruguay federation, Wilmar Valdez, upon confirming an appeal would be lodged against the decision.
“It feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup. We all know what Suarez means to Uruguay and to football around the world,” Wilmar said.
In truth nobody wins from Suarez’s suspension.
His ban robs the World Cup of one of its marquee names. It also casts a dark new shadow over Suarez’s career, both at international and club level.
But at least this time FIFA got it right.